Rogers elementary students celebrate veterans

Posted: November 11, 2017 at 1 a.m.

E.S. Lawbaugh of Fayetteville (left), Marine Corps veteran, and Army veteran Lucion Cowart of Rogers chat Friday at a Veterans Day performance by students at Westside Elementary School in Rogers. Lawbaugh was keynote speaker at the event. Students sang patriotic songs under the direction of music teacher Pamela Pittman and heard video remarks from veterans.

ROGERS -- Westside Elementary School students had a chance to get to know some Northwest Arkansas veterans before paying tribute to them during a Veterans Day program Friday.

Each of Westside's third- through fifth-grade classrooms received visits last month from one of nine veterans. Students interviewed the veterans and recorded information on a biographical and background data sheet, which will be preserved by the Library of Congress as part of its Veterans History Project.

Westside second-graders sing a patriotic song Friday during the school’s Veterans Day program at the Rogers school. Students performed songs and heard...

Pamela Pittman, Westside music teacher, directs students Friday during a patriotic song performance.

Lt. Col. E.S. (Vess) Lawbaugh

Vess Lawbaugh, guest speaker at Westside Elementary School’s Veterans Day program on Friday, joined the Marine Corps after college. He served two tours in the Vietnam War. While serving as company commander he was wounded in action on Aug. 12, 1969; he spent four months in a hospital in Guam before returning to duty. After retiring from the Marine Corps he went on to be a teacher, a college administrator and a lawyer. He was inducted into the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame in 2013.

Source: Staff Report

Nicole Pays, 9, a Westside fourth-grader, said her class interviewed Warren Hunter, a Vietnam veteran.

"It was cool to meet a real veteran. I really wanted to meet one," Nicole said. "We asked him questions and he answered almost all of them. We just appreciate that he came."

A video about the interviews was shown during Friday's program.

The program also included singing performances by the second-, third- and fourth-grade classes; a video about World War II Coast Guard veteran and Rogers resident Lois Bouton; and guest speaker Vess Lawbaugh, a Fayetteville resident who served two combat tours in Vietnam with the Marines.

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Lawbaugh, 82, used his time with the microphone to tell a room packed with students and adults not about his own service, but about individual veterans he admired from wars going back to World War I.

Lawbaugh spoke about how when he was a kid, his next-door neighbor was drafted into the Army at 37 years old. That man served in World War II and was part of the Battle of the Bulge. He came down with trench foot, a potentially deadly condition caused by the feet being wet for too long, Lawbaugh said.

He talked about his high school coach who had aspired to run in the Olympics before he went into the Korean War, where his feet froze.

"Needless to say, his career and his dreams of being an Olympian were over," Lawbaugh said.

Lawbaugh also discussed his grandson Brian Botello, who was killed in action April 29, 2007, in Baghdad, Iraq. Botello, a specialist in the Army, was 19 when a bomb exploded near his unit, according to an Associated Press account.

Botello had lived in Iowa. He was an excellent athlete who also participated in band and school plays, Lawbaugh said. Botello is buried in Fayetteville National Cemetery.

Pamela Pittman, the school's music teacher, led Friday's program. Students had worked on their musical pieces since September, she said. Pittman also initiated the school's participation in the Veterans History Project.

"I think it's such a difficult concept for kids to understand what a veteran really is and does. It's my way of providing that for them," Pittman said.

Pittman's mother, Olivia Olson, used to teach at Westside before retiring a few years ago. Olson said she has done dozens of video interviews for the Veterans History Project. Children can't do the actual interviews, but they can do the "pre-interviews" where they find out a veteran's basic information, Olson said.

Pittman said her goal was to get kids to understand and respect veterans and what their service means to the country. Though not all the grade levels performed at Friday's program, all students learned the songs associated with each branch of the military.

Several veterans were in the audience Friday. They were asked to stand while their service song was played at the end of the program.

James Case, 10, a fourth-grader, learned a deeper appreciation for the life he has, "Because veterans have risked their lives for your life and everything around you," he said.

NW News on 11/11/2017