Cleveland Middle School students piled onto the gym bleachers in good spirits to celebrate the men and women who have served their country.
A 30-minute presentation was prepared, complete with performances by both the CMS drama and dance clubs. Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and state Rep. Kevin Brooks were present to say a few words of thanks to the veterans. Students related to the veterans proudly stood by as they waited their turn to enter the gym.
As the bleachers inched toward capacity, the wails of a fire alarm pierced the air. Someone was pulling a prank. However, teachers and staff could not immediately prove there was no threat to students. The bleachers were emptied as the middle schoolers were escorted out of the building.
Everyone returned with 15 minutes to spare before dismissal.
The dance team and drama club remained on the sidelines as only the essentials of the program were kept in place.
Principal Mike Collier chastised the anonymous prankster before greeting the veterans.
“We are going to continue with our program,” Collier said. “We are here to recognize these people for their sacrifice, and thank them for their sacrifice.”
One student might have made an error in judgment by pulling the alarm, but more than a thousand middle schoolers made it their mission to make the veterans feel appreciated.
Rowland was asked to read off the names of the veterans.
“I am going to call each of your names, and if you just want to hold your hand up when I call your name and branch of service,” Rowland said. “Then we are going to give you a very loud round of applause.”
The first name was called: “Jack Owens, United States Army.”
Loud cheers and whoops left the mouths of students as they thundered their applause.
The mayor paused as he looked at the bleachers, “Never mind waiting, let’s just cheer for each one of them then.”
Students kept their enthusiasm as high as their cheers for each of the remaining names: James Stokes, Navy; Mark A. Beaty Jr., Air Force; Peggy Goodine, Army; John Dailey, Army; William Casteel, Army; Mansill Parkison, Navy; Oxzavia Ellis, Army; Dion Wilkerson, Army; John Alcock, Navy; Jack King, Army; Alvin R. Howard, Army; Jamie Avery, Army; 1st Sgt. Troy Jones, Army; the Rev. Edward S. Robinson Sr., Army; Lomas Swafford, Army; Raymond Scott, Marines; Terry Robinson Sr., Army; Everett W. Odom, Air Force; Dewey Fox, Air Force; Ralph Jones, Air Force; J.C. Arnold, Marines; and Patricia Powers, Navy.
Collier thanked the students for their behavior before offering his thanks one final time to the veterans in attendance.