The Veterans Day Assembly, on Nov. 10, at Field-Stevenson Elementary School moved many in attendance to the point of holding back tears.

When Meghan Binder, Field-Stevenson music director, spotted her father-in-law, a Vietnam veteran, wipe away a tear she almost lost it herself. Binder soldiered on, though, leading her choir of fourth-graders through a series of spirited, patriotic songs.

Prior to the main event, the school celebrated Grandparent’s Day. Field-Stevenson’s PTO served breakfast and the choir gave them a preview performance. The gym was decorated with red-and-blue wall coverings and a banner that promised, “We Will Not Forget.” Fourth-graders also wore the colors of the stars and stripes as they sang, swayed and clapped. 

At 10 a.m., the Forest Park Police Officer Color Guard marched in, prompting the crowd to stand and sing the “Star Spangled Banner.” The gym was filled with parents, staff and students. Mayor Anthony Calderone was on hand, along with D91 Superintendent Lou Cavallo and Assistant Superintendent Ed Brophy.

“Today’s a very special day,” Binder announced, “Today, we’re thanking our veterans through song. Our fourth-graders have worked very hard and can’t wait to perform.”

The 50-voice chorus proceeded to sing passionately.

They started with the martial music of “We Are Americans”, singing the verses in round and thrusting their fists at the finale. “America the Beautiful” was suitably stately and built to a soaring finish.

Binder then asked all the veterans to stand. Students stepped down from the stage to present them with cards and red roses. The choir’s next selection was the theme song for the assembly: “We Won’t Forget.”

Cheers carried guitarist, Paul Cushing, to the front to accompany the choir on “This Land is Your Land.”  Binder roused the morning crowd into singing along.

“Thankful for the USA” was a country clapper, accompanied by synchronized dance moves and a shout of “USA,” at the end.

For their final number, the fourth-graders launched into the school’s theme song “Go Sharks!” It was rousing and funky, finishing with a rapping clap-along chorus. The tune was written by Teresa Jennings, with lyrics by Binder.

Binder is in her 10th year of teaching music to grades K-5 at Field-Stevenson. “Last year, we started a fall assembly, to give the fourth-graders a chance to perform,” Binder said.

“We study the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ in fourth grade, so they can sing it as adults,” Binder explained. “We also teach them the proper etiquette to observe during the anthem.” 

For the school’s fall assembly, Binder chose a mix of traditional and contemporary songs, and the fourth-graders spent two months mastering them.

Now, the young singers are shifting their attention to holiday songs.  “In December, they’ll perform at the winter concert at Betsy Ross [Elementary School],” Binder said. “They’re also going to sing for seniors at the Community Center.”

As for the fourth-graders’ performance at the Veteran’s Day assembly, many attendees will likely not forget the tears they had to wipe away.


John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.