Return to Headlines

Celebrating Heroes: Playa del Rey Honors Veterans for 11th Consecutive Year

Gold banner graphic

Dr. McCord and Staff Celebrating Veteran's Day

Each year just before Veteran’s Day, schools across our district pay special tribute to the selfless service of their community's active duty service members and military Veterans. On November 8, 2023, students and staff at Playa del Rey Elementary School organized a Veteran’s Day assembly which acted as an expression of honor and celebration for the family members who have dedicated themselves to serving their country. Welcoming families to the campus, the assembly not only acknowledged the sacrifices of these heroes but also provided students with valuable insights into the lessons offered by the U.S. military.

Playa del Rey Elementary has honored Veterans in each of the past 11 years, evolving from sharing photos of family members into the school-wide assembly with music that it is today. This year’s Veteran’s Day assembly paid tribute to each branch of the military by playing the Armed Forces Melody. It also featured speeches from various military Veterans, including speeches from two teachers at the school. Members of the Arizona Patriot Guard Riders rode in on three-wheel motorcycles, presented American flags, and handed out coloring pages to students. 

One of the featured speakers for the assembly was Craig Murray, a U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran and father of the school’s principal Amber Bickes. Murray shared his experiences in the Army and talked about the different qualities he gained through his service: leadership, integrity and trust. Murray also talked about the importance of teamwork by saying, “As an individual, you can achieve many things, but as a team, we can truly succeed.”

Julia Jackson Speaking in Front of StudentsTwo teachers at Playa del Rey Elementary also presented speeches in front of the school. Juliana Jackson, a preschool special education teacher and U.S. Air Force Veteran, talked about the importance of honoring Veterans and how service members protect American rights.

Jakelin Pacheco, a kindergarten teacher and U.S. Army Veteran, paralleled the immense pride she has in her service as a paratrooper and her role as a teacher saying, “Serving for our country made me proud. Now I’m proud to be a teacher.”

In addition to the assembly, Playa del Rey Elementary put together multiple displays of appreciation for military Veterans. A slideshow was projected in the main hallway of the school, which included photos of students pointing to pictures of family members who are Veterans and videos of students thanking Veterans for their service. 

Playa del Ray Student Pointing to Veteran Family MemberThe school also placed its Wall of Honor in the main hallway. The Wall of Honor holds photos of students’ family members who have served in the military. Next to each photo, a card shares the name of each person in the photo, the student or staff member they are related to, the branch they served in, their rank, and any recognitions or accommodations they received during their service.

“These assemblies and recognitions are inspiring because students have an ‘AHA’ moment as a result of them,” added Julia Jackson. “It's a blessing to be able to do this and have my school behind me. I am honored to honor this community.”

Gilbert Public Schools appreciates and honors those who are currently serving our country and those who have selflessly done so in the past. Veterans and service members are an important part of the Gilbert Public Schools family. They are our teachers, staff, administrators and parents, and we thank them for their service.

Story by Tristan Chavez. Photos by Jonason Pauley