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Cowell students honor military, 1st responders
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U.S. Army Sgt. Bennie White and his son Jacob, 5, leave Joshua Cowell School following the 9-11 ceremonies Friday morning. Jacob is in kindergarten. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

Kindergarten students at Joshua Cowell Elementary School were the highlight of the Patriot Day celebration Friday morning when they walked up to the stage steps in the school quad bringing care gifts to be sent to military personnel serving abroad.

The quad was filled with all the school’s students up through the eighth grade to hear guest speakers including Manteca detective and school board member Steve Schluer and Army Sergeant David Winegar who had served two tours in Iraq and one in Kosovo as a wheel vehicle mechanic.

The sergeant thanked the students for their packaged gifts that were sent to them in combat saying they all looked forward to their arrival.  He would find others who were being overlooked and send their names back stateside so they could be included the next time.  When they received more gifts than they could use, he said, they would find others in nearby communities who were in need more than they were without supplies.

Principal Bonnie Bennett was so overwhelmed with what her students were doing for Patriot 9-11 Day that she choked up at one point when she was addressing the audience.  She asked Charles and Teri Palmer to stand before the audience. They had been the spirit behind the packaging of gift boxes being sent to GIs overseas. Their son was the first from Manteca to fall in the Global War on Terror.

On Friday during the school assembly, the entire student body took their gifts up to the front of the stage to be later packaged for shipment.

Manteca Councilman Rich Silverman and his wife Linda presented the school with a check to provide for the cost of shipping the countless items donated for the military service men and women.

Bennett recalled a fifth grader named Genevieve Florez who had written a letter to her saying she wanted to help stop world hunger, work to have no more bullies and say thanks to police, firefighters, men and women in the military and the teachers.  She enclosed $20 to help in the effort.  After much discussion Genevieve decided to send care packages to the brave soldiers defending the country.

The principal contacted the Palmers who happened to be the parents of one of her former students who had died in combat. Corporal Charles Palmer II lost his life in Iraq on May 5, 2007.  At that moment the Palmers decided to coordinate services for those who wanted to join in sending care packages to the brave soldiers.

Bennett said the first year of student donations the steps at the front of the stage were covered with snacks, wipes, cough drops, toilet paper and so much more.  That was three years ago and they packed 67 boxes.

“You’re not going to believe what happened next.  That one little good effort from one child  spread not only through our school but all the way to the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C. ,where Congressman Jeff Denham told our Patriot Day Story in the Opening of the Congressional Session.  That was pretty amazing because Joshua Cowell Elementary School was praised in the House of Representatives and is now part of the United States History forever,” she noted.

Parent volunteers took part in Friday’s ceremonies and aided members of the student council and Student Leadership to help pack all of the gifts the children left at the foot of the stage into boxes to be shipped to members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.

The other speakers included Mayor Stephen DeBrum, Council members Mike Morowit and Rich Silverman.

To contact Glenn Kahl email or call 209.249.3549.