November 10, 2023 - Students of all ages celebrated local veterans Thursday at Comal ISD campuses with special programs that included choir, cheer and dance performances as well as JROTC and band, orchestra and more.
Annually, campuses throughout Comal ISD invite local military veterans to attend special programs on Veterans Day. These programs center around student performances and recognize fathers, mothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles and family members who have served in the United States military.
“As a teacher and mom at Oak Creek Elementary as well as a wife and daughter to veterans, I am always moved to tears at the beautiful celebration our school creates for Veterans Day,” says Danielle McGaha, first-grade teacher at OCES. “What an honor for my family to be part of this beautiful school district.”
Here are a few veterans who attended programs today, and what it means to them to be honored and recognized.
Lt. Col. Matt McCarty, Army, Active Duty, 2003-present, currently at Ft. Sam Houston
Family includes wife, Heather, and four children – Teagan, 5th-grade Indian Springs Elementary; Graham, 3rd-grade ISES, Landry, 1st-grade ISES; and Paxton, 3 years old.
“I feel a tremendous amount of pride to think of all the thoughtfulness that was put into this celebration,” McCarty says. “It makes me happy and makes me feel appreciated.”
Jennifer Rakestraw and family
Rakestraw invited her family to attend the program at ISES including her father, Jesse Carrillo Sr., who served in the Army, and her mother, Becky Carrillo whose brother, Jose Gonzales, died while serving in Vietnam. Rakestraw’s children include Emma, 5th-grade, and Ethan, 2nd-grade.
“It gives us so much pride that our children and grandchildren are being taught to honor and give gratitude for our beloved veterans’ service. It’s important the children are taught and understand how our veterans fought for their freedom and American way of life. Celebrating our veterans reminds us of how much they sacrificed for us and our country and how we should not take their sacrifice for granted.”
Lt. Col. Brian Kammerer, Army, Retired, 30 years
Family includes wife, Shea, and two children – Jordan, 11th-grade Pieper High School; and Jaxann, 7th-grade Pieper Ranch Middle School.
Jordan was one of two students to give a personal address during the PHS program. Her entire essay may be seen here.
“My father's deployments have had a profound impact on my childhood,” she says. “The military lifestyle is marked by constant change – new homes, new schools, and new friends every few years. Adapting became a necessity.”
Jordan plans to follow in her father’s footsteps when it comes to serving in the military. She would like to attend the Coast Guard Academy upon high school graduation.
“Programs like this build understanding and appreciation,” says Jordan’s father Brian. “For a moment, it shows the tradition of the military.”
Major Lamont Anderson, Air Force, Retired, 22 years
Family includes wife, Tahmina, and two children – Alina, 11th-grade Pieper High School; and Ilim, 8th-grade Pieper Ranch Middle School.
“For schools, veterans day programs bring awareness to students of the cost of freedom,” says Major Anderson. “Personally, it is a great feeling to watch a performance like this to showcase and understand the sacrifice to our nation.”
Alina, who is a member of the PHS JROTC, plans to follow in her father’s footsteps with a military career of her own. She would like to attend the Air Force Academy upon high school graduation.
Major Jim Collier, Army, Retired, 20 years
Family includes wife, Beth, and three children – Ethan, 22; and twins, Abigail and Emma, 11th-grade Pieper High School. Both participated in the Veterans Day program at PHS. Abigail who is a member of the JROTC, performed drills and presented the "Missing Man Table," and Emma, a member of the band, played “Taps.”
“As a veteran, these programs are fantastic,” says Major Collier. “People do not serve for the recognition, but it is very moving to see the schools honor veterans. Even for just an hour, it is good to see students focus on what it means to serve.
“It is easy to forget that what we have isn’t free but paid for by our military and first responders. To take the time for students and faculty to plan and organize this event means a lot.”
It’s special for the military families as well.
“We see our parents get deployed, and they miss out on so many of our activities,” says Abigail. “This gives us a moment to be proud and honor them.”
Emma agrees, “It’s a great connection to the rest of the school for military families. It’s a good feeling.”
Abigail plans to follow in the footsteps of her father with a military career, and Emma plans to go into medicine.
Once more, thank you to all our veterans.
-Brendon McGaha served in the Air Force and is pictured with his children who attend Oak Creek Elementary, Brody and Keely.
-Lt. Col. Matt McCarty serves in the Army at Fort Sam Houston and is pictured with three of his children who attend Indian Springs Elementary. From left is Graham, Teagan and Landry.
-Honored during the Veterans Day program at Indian Springs Elementary. Back row from left is Andrea Archuleta, Jesse Carrillo, Sr., Jennifer Rakestraw, Becky Carrillo, and music teacher Venessa Sloan. Front row from left is Ethan Rakestraw and Emma Rakestraw.
-Pictured from left is Pieper High School JROTC student Alina Anderson, Major Lamont Anderson and Tahmina Anderson.
-Pictured from left is Pieper High School student Emma Collier, Major Jim Collier and PHS JROTC student Abigail Collier.
-Pictured from left is Pieper High School student Jordan Kammerer and her father Lt. Col. Brian Kammerer.
-Members of Club Scout Pack 1492 greeted guests at the Veterans Day program at Indian Springs Elementary. Pictured from left is Henry Moy, second-grade; Derek Polcyn, third-grade, and Graham McCarty, third-grade.