Students, parents and teachers crowded the auditorium at Tyson Elementary Tuesday for the school’s first-ever Veterans Day Assembly.
Some kids waved paper American flags, and the youngest grades wore paper crowns with “U.S.A.” written on the front in crayon. There was a patriotic sing-along, a slideshow featuring photos of the more than two dozen Tyson family members who’ve served, a moment of silence and a performance of taps.
“It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, but never had taken the opportunity,” said John Kito, the school’s principle.
Kito’s own brother was killed by mortar fire while serving in Vietnam in 1967. He said Veterans Day has always been an honor for his family, but they always observed it quietly. It wasn’t until music teacher Lindsay Rudebusch came to Tyson at the beginning of this semester that the school made plans to host a special Veterans Day event for the first time.
“My husband is a captain with the Army, and we got stationed here for Fort Richardson for three years,” Rudebusch said. “I thought, since we have the post here, with the Air Force and the Army, it would be a treat for the students to honor our veterans.”
One of those veterans is 70-year-old Frank Charmley, who also served in the Army and was stationed at Fort Benning before heading to Vietnam in 1968. Charmley has deep ties to Anchorage: His father helped build the ALCAN Highway with the U.S. Corps of Engineers, and Charmley grew up in Mountain View. He attended Mountain View Elementary the year it burned to the ground and Clark Middle School the first year it opened, and he lived in an old house near Commercial Drive during the Good Friday earthquake. He still remembers the 1953 Mount Spurr explosion that blanketed the city in ash.
“I was here the day it turned dark at noon,” he said.
Tuesday, he wore a U.S. Army baseball cap and sat near the front of the room with his daughter, Melissa Hurt. They watched his granddaughter — Hurt’s daughter — perform “This Land is Our Land” with a classmate, and later in the ceremony Charmley stood to be recognized alongside Tyson’s other Army veterans. He still carries his aging, black-and-white Army headshot in his wallet, but he said he almost didn’t make it to the special assembly. He doesn’t leave the house much these days.
In the end, though, his daughter convinced him to attend.
“She always wants me to tell my story,” Charmley said.
He said he’s glad he came.