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Murray students honor veterans at school ceremonies

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● Published by Julie Slama

World War II veteran Ray Clark brought a photo of his unit, the 90th division, 344th field artillery for Longview students to see during the school’s first Veterans’ Day program. Clark, in his service days, is seen above the green sticky note. (Chad Sanders/Longview Elementary)

Gallery: Murray students honor veterans [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

McMillan fifth-grader Evan Kulp was excited when his classmates were learning “Anchors Aweigh” in preparation for the school’s third annual Veterans’ Day program. He had grown up hearing the song that honors the Navy from his grandfather, Charlie Kulp, who had served as a medical corpsman during Desert Storm.

“He has a bottle cap opener that plays the music and then, he sings along,” Evan said. “I wanted us to sing the whole song to impress him and make him happy.”

Evan, and his second-grade brother, Aidan, also had their great-grandfather, 98-year-old Albert Marshall Vice on stage with other veterans being honored. As part of the “Big Red One,” Vice shared with students that he was in the fifth-hour wave landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day.

“It was a special time for them and we’re thankful for what they did for our country,” Evan said.

Evan, who has seen his grandfather’s military medals, knows his great-grandfather served in North Africa and Sicily before France, and knows he trained for Normandy in Belfast, North Ireland, where he met his wife, Etta, whom he married after the war. 

But he, nor many family members, hadn’t heard all the first-hand accounts of Vice’s time in the service. That’s because for years he didn’t talk about his experience.

“When he was discharged after the war, he was told, ‘Don’t talk about the war, but go back to your lives and jobs and carry on,’” said Vice’s daughter Pam Hutchinson.

Some details of his service came out when Hutchinson and her husband took Vice, who served as a staff sergeant during the Battle of the Bulge, back to Normandy in 1987, where he was honored at the Memorial of Caen for liberating France and later, walked along Omaha Beach. He also talked at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City on the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

“His unit was let out in the water, which was deeper than they thought, and they made it to the beach that was on fire from all the missiles,” Hutchinson said, adding that Vice wanted to protect his troops from not only the gun fire, but also from the Germans who hid in the hedgerows along the beach. “It’s still extremely difficult for him to talk about it.”

The program, which fifth-grade teacher Julianne Curtis FaceTimed to her parents in Oklahoma since her father served in the Air Force in Japan, included other songs from military branches and patriotic songs interspersed by school essay-winners.

Sixth-grader Alyssa Harlin wrote a poem in honor of the veterans. It began with, “He went to the ocean, with tears in his eyes as he left his wife and children and said his good-byes.”

“I wanted to show my appreciation for these veterans and all the people who fought for our freedoms — our heroes,” she said.

There were services at Woodstock Elementary as well as at Longview Elementary, where another stage full of veterans were thanked for their service and sacrifice in the school’s first Veterans’ Day assembly. 

Vivian Ricks, and her husband, Richard, came to the ceremony when Vivian’s sister, sixth-grade teacher Gayla Salmon told them about the service. Their father served as an airplane mechanic in the Army.

“I hope they understand the sacrifices the soldiers made to protect our freedom,” Richard Ricks said.

His wife added, “And they learn they’re mighty lucky to live in America.”

Sixth-grader Jaelyn Forsyth realizes that. She sang a solo in “My Country Tis of Thee,” with her grandfather, Hardy Stucki, looking on. He served in the Army’s special forces in Germany in the time after World War II.

“Veterans’ Day is really important and special that we have the opportunity to celebrate our veterans and thank them for our freedoms,” she said, adding that her uncles also served in the Army and she has cousins currently serving. 

Stucki was sitting amongst others who served, including two World War II veterans. 

Scott Clark shared a little about his father, Ray, and his service to the country and brought a photo of his unit, the 90th division, 344th field artillery, so students could see.

“He was one of two Utahns who landed on Utah Beach on June 6, 1944,” he said. “He was 19 years old, and was called ‘the kid’ by his buddies.”

Ray Clark, who loaded ammunition into a howitzer, also fought Germans through the hedgerows and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. In spring the following year, Clark’s unit helped to liberate Flossenburg concentration camp.

“That upset him. He knew there were slave workers there, but he didn’t know 41,000 of them were prisoners and were starving,” Scott Clark said.

His father’s unit also discovered where Germans had hidden stolen art and gold in the salt mines. By May, his unit had met the Russians in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia and shook hands as Germany surrendered. Last year, he was awarded the Legion of Honor by the president of France.

“He did it all. My dad served the entire war without complaining. But when he was honored last year at the Murray 4th of July, he said, ‘I’m not a hero. Everyone there was a hero. We did this for everyone,’” his son said. 

Other service men shared where they served — as a machinist in the Navy during WWII stationed in the Pacific Islands, a K9 handler in Vietnam, aboard the USS Constellation and USS Okawana, in the Army signal corps in Korea, in an evacuation hospital during the Gulf War and more.

Choir teacher Heather Butterfield, who directed the program that featured students talking, singing and waving flags that they later gave with thank-you notes to veterans, and parent Bethea Rugh playing the bagpipes, said she asked students to bring in photos, which were included in a backdrop and added to a PowerPoint presentation.

“I wanted students to understand Veterans’ Day and recognize we’re all connected,” she said. “They may have a mom, an aunt or grandfather, but the power of them learning about our veterans comes from honoring these people who served.” 

Seven-year-old Adam Nelson said, “One of my favorite things to do is to visit and shake hands with veterans. I know that many kids think that a hero to them is a superhero like Spider-Man, Wonder Woman or Batman…but to me, a hero is a soldier like my grandpa who served in the United States military for 22 years.” 

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