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CES students celebrate Veterans Day

Posted: November 8, 2013 4:40 p.m.
Updated: November 11, 2013 5:00 a.m.
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Sgt. Scott Casimiro, USMC, ret., will be speaking at today’s Veterans Day program at Camden Elementary School (CES).

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It is unlikely the lively curiosity-laden kindergarten students at Camden Elementary are aware of the fact that historic Flanders Fields is a real place as they march into the gymnasium at their school’s Veterans Day program this morning carrying the bright red paper poppies they have made.

It is unlikely this group of sunny 5-year olds has ever seen a field of real poppies blowing in the wind. It is unlikely any of the students at Camden Elementary will ever know the tremendous anguish Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae felt those 17 days as he treated the injured in World War I.

It is unlikely these students will ever know the sadness McCrae felt as he buried his good friend in a field of poppies.

The lesson they can learn today, however, is one of remembrance. They can learn these crepe-paper poppies they carry have been a powerful symbol of death, life, and remembrance since the First World War. They must know, on this 11th day of this 11th month, on this Veterans Day, we are remembering our living veterans, we are remembering our fallen veterans.

Today, students from all over Kershaw County will honor, remember, and celebrate our country’s veterans. Like the red poppy, our veterans have survived courageously through battle and adversity, through selfless sacrifice and service. On this Veterans Day, students will recognize the men and women of our Armed Services who have valiantly defended and continue to defend the very values America was founded on -- those of liberty, opportunity and justice for all.

Today, students will remember our nearly 23 million veterans’ enduring accomplishments and honor their commitment to this land of the free. America is greatly indebted to those who have sacrificed for the liberty and security of our great country. When it has mattered most, our military has taken up arms to uphold the ideals of our founding fathers. Our service members are unyielding in battle, steadfast in loyalty and unmatched in honor. They have always demonstrated to us freedom is the most influential force on Earth.

Today is being used as a day to teach young people, at CES and other Kershaw County schools, about the sacrifices made by their fathers and grandfathers, uncles and neighbors, mothers and grandmothers. It is about making sure that when the children of today hear the history lessons and traditions of our great country, they know none of it would be possible without our veterans.

Darlene Cantey, a fourth-grade teacher at CES, heads up the Veterans Day program for the school and is passionate about honoring our veterans.

“I believe there is so much we can learn from our veterans,” Cantey said. “They provide a reminder to our teachers and students that the freedoms we enjoy today are because of the sacrifices they have made for our nation. They serve as noble role models for our young children. I can’t imagine teaching without the support of our veterans.”

CES was scheduled to begin its Veterans Day program this morning at 8 a.m. as students and faculty hosted a welcome reception in the school’s cafeteria.

“We have added a breakfast for all veterans and their families this year and it would not be possible without the generosity of our community,” Cantey said, naming a number of restaurants and grocery stores. “We are grateful for their support.”

Following the breakfast, the school’s program will begin at 9 a.m. in the multi-purpose room with a Presentation of the Colors by the Camden High School United States Army JROTC Color Guard followed by the fourth grade classes singing “Armed Forces Melody.” Throughout the program, veterans and their families will be entertained by a variety of patriotic music sung by the students.

CES Veterans Day Committee member Margaret Bishop said they are privileged to have some of the “country’s finest” speaking to the children this morning.

“We are privileged to have Lt. Col. Andrew W. Batten and Lt. Col. Stephanie B. Batten speaking at our Veteran’s Day program,” Bishop said. “The kids are extremely excited about their visit.”

LTC Andrew Batten was assigned as commander, 2-151 Aviation in 2010, and assumed command of Joint Task Force Liberty, Operation Phalanx in February of 2012, deployed to the South Texas border region. Upon completion of a successful command, he was assigned as Deputy Commander of 59th Aviation Troop Command in 2013.

LTC Stephanie Batten currently serves as the Aviation Medicine Program Manager for all units within 59th Aviation Troop Command and as the AMEDD Branch Manager for the South Carolina Army National Guard.

LTC Andrew Batten was deployed in 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom III. LTC Stephanie Batten was deployed in 2011 in support of Operation New Dawn.

Both LTCs are highly decorated and have received numerous distinguished military awards. The Battens will be addressing the students on their service in the military and the importance of staying in school.

Also speaking at CES this morning is Sgt. Scott Casimiro, United States Marine Corps, ret., who will talk to the children about the sacrifices soldiers make every day so we can all enjoy our lives feeling safe. Casimiro will speak about the importance of recognizing these sacrifices and how we, as a nation, can honor our military. He will also talk about how exercise and staying fit has helped him and other veterans to live healthier lives.

Casimiro is part of Operation Enduring Warrior Community Athletes, a group of hard charging individuals who come together and share a common obstacle in physical fitness. He hopes to pass along to the students some of the challenges he’s faced since coming home from Afghanistan in 2011. In October 31, 2011, while conducting combat operations as a member of the 1st Battalion 6th Marines, Bravo Company, Casimiro suffered injuries from an IED explosion leaving him with traumatic blindness, severe hearing loss, shrapnel wounds from head to feet, and PTSD.

“It is an honor to welcome to our school, Sergeant Casimiro, a true American hero,” committee member Laura Battiata said.

CES administration, staff, teachers and students are not making this day of remembrance just about one day. The school has been working for more than a month to collect supplies for care packages to be sent to our troops in Afghanistan.

“The kids set a goal of 100 boxes to be filled by mid-November and I am confident they will succeed. By doing this, they feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves and they are,” Darlene Cantey, recipient of the VFW’s South Carolina Citizenship Teacher of the Year in 2012, said.

“The students are learning by her example as to the importance of always remembering our veterans and for this we are grateful for her passion,” Laura Battiata said.

The school will be collecting non-perishable items from the community through mid- to late-November and a collection box can be found in the school’s office.

It’s all a part of CES’ efforts to show that Kershaw County will remember, always.

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