Cody School District Comes Together To Celebrate Veteran's Day

Nov 22, 2019

For the past four years, Park County School District #6 in Cody has brought together all of its schools to create one mass celebration in honor of veterans.

Early one fall morning, Eastside Elementary music teacher, Emily Andrews, welcomes her 5th grade class.

"We're going to work on a couple of veteran songs today. We're going to start on this peppy one," she tells her class.

As Andrews figures out how to play the music, the ten and eleven-year-old's chat away until a tune they recognize begins.

In unison, all the children begin singing the Fifty Nifty United States song, one of the standard tunes they have been singing for the past couple of years as part of an effort to honor local veterans.

When Andrews came to Cody, she noted that Eastside Elementary School didn't do anything extra special for veterans so she decided to start a celebration.

"I always observed Veterans Day. I don't think it's really controversial like Christmas or whatever, could be just for religious reasons, but I think it's pretty normal to, especially in this area."

Cody High School gym filled with students, veterans and parents for the Veteran celebration.
Credit Kamila Kudelska

Eastside Elementary isn't the only park county school district elementary school that honors vets. Livingston Elementary School has been holding a huge Veteran's Day concert and pie social since the mid 1990s.

"It got to where [veterans] just were coming to our program," said Jerry Scott, the Livingston music teacher. "And the other schools they were kind of wanting to do something too but the times that they did their audience was just not as many because the veterans knew of this one going on for so many years and they just always came."

Scott said about five years ago, some other music teachers in the district approached her about combining all the schools performances together.

"It was really hard for our teachers because we have done this for so long, but they were all understanding. And I said, 'Well, we'll give it a try, you know, and see how it goes'."

So, in 2015, all of the elementary schools in the district got together and had one celebration. It was so successful, that the next year the high school and middle schools asked to join.

"It's so impactful when you hear 500 voices singing or you've got the band and the entire gymnasium singing like on God Bless America. And so it's, I think, starting to become something that's important to everybody," said Scott.

Veteran Ernie Hills served 20 years in the Marine Corps and he always makes time for this event.

"If these children are willing to go out and put their time in, dedicate this time to a veteran, I am more than willing to come to it anytime," Hills said.

27-year Navy veteran Jim Patterson said it's a great event.

"Now it's all of the schools and it's just marvelous, the way they have come together. It's the music teachers that have put all this together and there's a tremendous amount of work, and I know that every veteran in town really appreciates it."

Students serve pie to veterans after the celebration.
Credit Kamila Kudelska

The kids don't only sing. Ten-year-old Lillie Kirkham said preparing for the performance has taught her about the different branches of the military and what it means to be a veteran.

"We give a day to all the veterans that live in Cody and I think it's fair because they did more than us but we just want to make them feel like they're appreciated," she said.

Her friend Maddie Rodriguez added, "It's important because they have worked harder than we have just by serving our country and this is a way to show them that we appreciate what they do."

And when the day came, the Eastside Elementary 5th graders get to sing Fifty Nifty United States with all of the other 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders in Cody. Next year, since they will be in 6th grade, the children will start learning new songs and even have the chance to participate in the presentation of State Flags.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Kamila Kudelska, at kkudelsk@uwyo.edu.