Military Support & Recognition
Cougar RunThe 11th annual Cougar Run at E. Hale Curran Elementary School featured fun, fitness and for the first time - respect for the military. About 620 students from kindergarten through fifth grade took part in the event on the school’s track. They were joined by about a dozen members of the military from Camp Pendleton, Miramar Air Station and Naval Air Station North Island.PTA President Eric White kicked off the event by thanking the military members for their service and sacrifices. Next a group of students performed a very special tribute to the military members while all the students held American flags and “We are Proud to be an American” played over the school’s sound system. Navy Petty Officer Liza Alano took part in the run. “It gives kids the concept of what being in the military is all about and it’s a good feeling knowing my son has the school’s support while I’m deployed.” Marine Gunnery Sgt. Scott Canada, who is based at Miramar, has two children who attend the school. As Canada and the other military members took the first ceremonial lap around the track, students surrounded the track cheering and waving American flags. “It makes me proud to be a Marine and a father here at the school, to see all the kids’ smiles, and their pride in the military,” Canada said. “It’s good to see the pride and respect here.”Students solicited sponsorship pledges of $25 and PTA officials said they raised about $3,000 which will go toward funding assemblies, family night and technology.
The Cougar Run is a well-established tradition at E. Hale Curran. Principal David Koltovich said, “It is just part of our culture. The kids really look forward
to it.” Korey Huestis, a Shivela eighth-grader, attended E. Hale Curran all through elementary school. She and a handful of other former students came to join in the fun and encourage the E. Hale Curran students. “I looked forward to it every year when I was here,” Huestis said. “I always loved to run, especially at the Cougar Run. All the music and all my friends, just running around and having fun.”
Valentines for VetsStudents showed a lot of love this year by making 13,711 hand-crafted valentines for veterans and active duty service members. As the wife of a Marine who is currently deployed, Monte Vista parent Stephanie Ashby said, “It is so nice as a military family to have the support of the schools.”Kelly Stottman, military chair for Murrieta Valley Council PTA, organized the Valentines for Vets Challenge. This is the third year of the Challenge and ten schools participated this year: Alta Murrieta, Antelope Hills, Avaxat, Buchanan, Monte Vista, Shivela, Tovashal, Warm Springs, Vista Murrieta and Murrieta Mesa. For the third year, Alta Murrieta Elementary won the trophy by making 4,627 valentines. The number of valentines hand-crafted by students more than doubled this year so Stottman reached out to Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii and UCLA Operation Mend which provides charitable medical services to wounded service members. “The cards will be distributed to the same recipients as last year, along with a few more medical facilities and organizations,” Stottman said. “We delivered them to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center, Wounded Warrior Battalion, Naval Base and Medical Center San Diego, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Veterans Administration hospitals in five states and Puerto Rico, several USO’s, VFW’s and local retirement homes.”Stottman thanked those who supported the Challenge, “Our goal is to let our veterans and those currently serving know that we are thinking about them and that we appreciate their service and sacrifice,” Stottman said. “I think we are definitely achieving that goal.”
Patriotic TributesTen years after 9/11 students across the district gathered to mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America. At Dorothy McElhinney Middle School, faculty, families and representatives from the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force and Coast Guard gathered for an assembly to honor those who serve in the military and first responders.
The assembly began with a Color Guard presentation and the Pledge of Allegiance. Members of the Civil Air Patrol Squadron 59, made up of students and alumni, gave the presentation.
A poem about the U.S. flag was read by student Christina Gregory. The student and teachers’ choir sang the Star Spangled Banner.
Principal Garrett Corduan remarked, “We need to remember those who have served and thank those who still do. I hope students will gain an appreciation for those who put their lives on the line every day for them.”
At Thompson Middle School during two special lunchtime performances, 230 members of the Thompson Middle School combined choirs sang patriotic songs and dedicated their music to the memories of those who lost their lives during the tragedies of September 11, 2001.
At Vista Murrieta High School Murrieta police Chief Mike Baray told a group of 1,000 upper class students, “You’re the last generation that will be able to say you saw this event firsthand. While future generations may water down what happened that day or even change the facts, your responsibility is to make sure that doesn’t happen.” Instead of breaking America, Baray said the attacks made the country stronger. “Our response was heroic. It was selfless. It was noble,” he said. “It was genuine love for our brothers and sisters.”
Senior Kelsey Hoogeboom, 17, Vice Commander of the school’s Air Force Jr. ROTC program, compared her memory of 9/11 to how the older generation remembers the attack on Pearl Harbor. “Dec. 7 is the day that will live in infamy,” she said. “My kids and grandkids will remember 9/11 as the day that changed America.”
Honoring Our Heroes and Our CountryLisa J. Mails' 4th graders presented a heartfelt patriotic assembly on Sept. 16th. The JROTC Honor Guard from Vista High School started the ceremony and parents and family members who are first responders or serve in the military were invited on stage so students could honor them as heroes and pay tribute to the memory of those lives lost 10 years ago.After several patriotic songs several fourth graders read moving tributes. “I am proud to honor Gunner Sgt. Michelle Macea and Staff Sgt. Pedro Macea,” read Dominic Macea. “My mom and dad are serving in the Marine Corps. My mom is stationed at Camp Pendleton and she is a motor transport maintenance chief. My dad is stationed in Afghanistan where he refuels trucks. They are my heroes because they help others and keep our country safe.” Several hundred parents were on hand including Air Force Lt. Colonel Steve Barrnett who has a first and fifth grader at the school. “This means everything in the world to have this support,” he said. “It makes us extremely proud of what we’re doing.”
U.S. Naval Petty Officer 1st Class Mike Gonzales, who had just returned from an eight month deployment, agreed, saying, “It is really beautiful to have this support, especially from the children.” Savannah Elwood, age 9, said her father has been in the Marines for five years and he will be deployed in a couple of months. “He is a great dad,” she said, “he protects our freedom and we honor him for what he does.”