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DISTRICT, SCHOLARS EXPRESS GRATITUDE TO HOMETOWN HEROES

A group of JROTC cadets salute as the colors are presentedIn its eighth incarnation, Pride and Patriotism once again saw District scholars, from elementary through high school, express their gratitude to those who served – and in many instances continue to serve – through the written word, artistic expression and song.
 
This year’s theme centered around gratefulness, with the literary and artistic creations, and musical performances, reflecting that theme.
 
The ceremony was ushered in by a rendition of the National Anthem by East choir members -- with support from JROTC cadets -- followed by a welcome from Sparky Turner, Executive Director for the Center for American Values, co-stager of Pride and Patriotism.
 
In her address, Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso’s noted that thanking veterans for their service often falls short of what a grateful nation owes them.
 
“It’s fitting that the theme for tonight’s celebration is centered on gratitude, of being thankful for the service, sacrifice, and commitment of those who have defended this country in time of war, and serving it in times of peace," she said.
 
"We’ve often heard the saying, 'If you love freedom, thank a vet.' And this is absolutely true. But sometimes, a mere ‘thank you’ falls very short of making good on the debt that every American owes every veteran.”
 
Longtime journalist and editor Steve Henson again served as master of ceremonies, with East JROTC Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Deanna Hernandez serving as co-emcee.
 
A four-year cadet, Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Hernandez serves as Battalion Commander and is part of the honor guard and the elite drill team.
 
After paying tribute to a lifelong friend, Vietnam Veteran Bob Sprouse – who passed away earlier this year – Mr. Henson encouraged veterans to share their stories with family members, friends and the community, so that their heroic exploits can be appreciated and carried on.
 
Steve Henson and WWII Veteran Bruce ElsonThe evening’s keynote speaker is a native son of Pueblo who personifies the term the “Greatest Generation.”
 
With the outbreak of World War II, 1941 Centennial graduate and JROTC cadet Bruce Elson, soon to be 100, answered his country’s call to duty by joining the Army-Air Force.
 
Attached to the 41st Infantry Division, Mr. Elson was in training for a planned November 1945 invasion of Japan, which historians agree would have resulted in a horrific bloodbath. To avert this, American leadership elected to drop the atomic bomb on two Japanese cities, forcing a surrender.
 
“If we had invaded, the casualties would have been worse than at Okinawa and Normandy,” he said. “Because every man, woman and child would have fought against us.”
 
Mr. Elson was among the troops dispatched to Hiroshima to serve in the aftermath, tasked with destroying weapons of war and other duties.
 
With a clear recollective ability, Mr. Elson shared fascinating and intimate details of his service, particularly of his time in Hiroshima.
 
He spoke of the devastation he observed, including a shadow on a bridge that represented a Hiroshima resident vaporized in the blast, buildings utterly deformed by the atomic rush, and a glass sake bottle twisted into an odd shape by the heat but still intact.
 
"Seeing that, we all prayed to God that something like this would never happen to the world again," Mr. Elson offered.
 
Tragic as that scene was, the American servicemen found in the surviving residents of Hiroshima kind-hearted souls: grateful like the rest of the world that peace had found the wounded planet.
 
"The adults begged for cigarettes and the little ones begged for chocolate," Mr. Elson said.
 
When he learned that a Japanese soldier had personally apologized to the residents of the Philippines for the treatment inflicted by his fellow service men, Mr. Elson struck up a correspondence with him, which revealed that the two men had more in common than in differences.
 
Having seen so much death and destruction during his time of service, Mr. Elson said it was only through the grace of God that he survived and was able to return to Pueblo and with his wife, raise a family of three and become a contributing member of the community.
 
“And for that, I've been indebted to the good Lord my entire life,” he said.
 
A young student shakes hands with the superintendent as she receives her awardMusical selections, including “The Brave” and “Home of Heroes,” were offered by young vocalists from Baca, Belmont, Bradford, Fountain, Franklin, Haaff, and Park View, with middle school vocalists -- and instrumentalists -- from Heaton and Risley performing “To Those Who Serve” and “Celebratory Fanfare.”
 
From East, vocalists and instrumental performers entertained patrons with “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “Fanfare Americana.”
 
An ensemble rendition of "America the Beautiful," with audience participation, capped the evening.
 
Produced by the D60 Communications Team, videos highlighting the JROTC programs at our high schools were shown throughout the ceremony.
 
Also given the spotlight via video were collaborative pieces of art – crafted by students from schools in the East quadrant – that colorfully reinforced the evening’s theme.
 
ELEMENTARY WRITING AWARDEES
• Elle Arguello, third grade, Fountain International Magnet School. Teacher: Cindy Gradishar
• Naomi Andrade, fourth grade, Franklin. Teacher: Jeannie Arrell
• Yamileth Gutierrez, fourth grade, Baca. Teacher: Patricia Mancilla
• Lane Davis, fifth grade, Haaff. Teacher: Shari Elson
• Juan Esquivel, fifth grade, Irving Elementary. Teacher: Danielle Farley
• Azaynia Garcia, fifth grade, D60 Online. Teacher: Pamela Sweckard
 
SECONDARY WRITING WINNERS
• David Phillips, sixth grade, Goodnight School. Teacher: Barbara Sandstrom
• Nazariah Sweat, eighth grade, D60 Online. Teacher: Amy DeBartolo-Smith
• Aaliyah LeDoux, sophomore, Paragon Learning Center. Teacher: Julie Youngblood Caricato