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Dudley Elementary fifth graders pay tribute to Victoria veterans

By JR Ortega
Nov. 10, 2010 at 5:10 a.m.
Updated Nov. 11, 2010 at 5:11 a.m.

Robert Gaona, a veteran who served in Vietnam, listens as Dudley Elementary Magnet School fifth-graders sing patriotic songs.

The words etched in gray leading on the patriotically drawn thank-you card were enough to melt Harrison Raska's heart.

The letter was from Felicia Lu, a fifth-grader at Dudley Elementary Magnet School, who, along with about 50 of her classmates, sang patriotic songs at a school assembly for veterans Wednesday.

"It makes you feel good," said the 81-year-old, faded blue eyes looking at the red, white and blue flag drawn on the letter. "They remember you."

Veterans from VFW Post 4146, American Legion, Korean War Veterans Association and Vietnam War Veterans Association stood up while students, teachers and parents applauded them for their duty to the country.

Raska watched and listened as the students sang "America," not fully knowing who his young admirer was.

At the front of the group, 10-year-old Felicia sang loud and proud, and danced and tapped her foot to each song she and her classmates performed.

The song "America" is her favorite because of its melody, she said.

"They fought for our freedom," she said about why she was so excited to perform Wednesday morning. "Without them, we wouldn't be here today."

The students have honored them for at least seven years, said Principal Diane Billo.

"We want to instill pride," she said. "We want our children to know what it's like to be a citizen."

The guest speaker, Wayne Dierlam, Victoria County commissioner Precinct 4, is also a veteran and served in Vietnam.

Speaking to other veterans who served with, before or after him was a pleasure, he said.

"Being a veteran myself, I know the price that a lot of families and a lot of people had to pay just for our freedom," he said prior to taking the podium. "It means so much to me to have served my country and to have honored my country."

Young met old as the fifth-graders continued singing toward a group of veterans.

"I know that America is in good hands with young people like this going forward," Dierlam said. "We don't have to worry because these people are going to be the future leaders and heroes of tomorrow."

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