FORT MILL — Thanksgiving came a little early to Riverview Elementary Friday when the school pulled out all the stops to celebrate local veterans.
Kindergarteners through fifth-graders, many waving American flags, wearing their Scout uniforms, or sporting star-spangled paper hats they had made, lined up along both sides of the hallways outside their classrooms. Some students in each class held paper signs printed with the names of moms, dads, grandparents and other active and retired service members.
Many other kids held paper signs that said “Thank you.”
In the library, the school had rounded up a visiting group of VIP guests: local military veterans and their families, who were chatting and sharing stories over breakfast treats. Principal Annette Chinchilla, dressed for the occasion in a navy skirt and crisp white blouse, led the procession into the halls and through the gauntlet of cheering kids. Fifth-graders Quinton Huntley and Dylan Dority carried the United States and South Carolina flags. Tylend Willingham and Christopher Dimoff followed with a Veterans Day banner nearly as wide as the hallway.
The parade ended in the cafeteria, where fifth-grader Coco Kelly welcomed everyone. The entire student body sang “For The Good of the Many” under the direction of William Fox, the music teacher. Following the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem, fifth-grader Anna Cogbill read “Thank You,” a poem she had written “to the brave men and women who protected our rights / Through cold hard days and cold hard nights.”
Then it was over.
The kids filed quickly and quietly back to their classes. Some visitors lingered; some headed back to the library to spend time with new friends. As the room cleared, Chinchilla and several other teachers worked quickly, rearranging, pushing tables to convert the makeshift auditorium back into a cafeteria in time for the kindergarteners’ lunch.
“I wish we had gotten this kind of welcome when we came home from Vietnam,” Chinchilla recalled a guest telling her after the parade.
“We get that every year,” she said.
Classes resumed. The kindergarteners had their lunch. The teachers of music and art folded the parade banner and tucked it safely away until next year.