MANATEE -- Perhaps being located right next to Freedom Elementary School has rubbed some good old American patriotism off on nearby Haile Middle on State Road 64.
Haile Middle School students submitted 16 of the 20 winning entries chosen in the Herald's military-themed art and writing contest, "Stories of Valor: Honoring Veterans, Troops and their Families."
All 20 winning artists and writers will be honored at the USO-style, family-friendly live show with the same name celebrating our veterans, which is scheduled to begin 6 p.m. Saturday at McKechnie Field, 1611 Ninth St. W., Bradenton.
Students were urged to either write a short message or draw a picture to send to a member of the U.S. military to win a chance to be honored at the show.
"We had 200 entries, and
we originally were going to pick three, but we ended up with 20 winners," said Johnette Isham, Executive Director of Realize Bradenton, which has coordinated the show.
The 20 will each be given $15 gift certificates from Keeton's Office & Art Supply in downtown Bradenton. All 200 messages will be sent to our military men and women through Manasota Operation Troop Support.
Perhaps the most striking Haile Middle entry was from Amy Irizarry, 14, who drew a color picture of a male and a female soldier reflecting on the American flag. The soldiers are wearing camouflage uniforms, which Amy took time to color with an eye on accuracy.
In her message, she writes, "I may not know your pain, but I do know the amount of appreciation you deserve. All the patriots in our country appreciate you and your sacrifices and that's a lot of people. I hope you know how much you are appreciated. Love, Amy."
The other 15 Haile winners included Adam Capps, 13; Holly MacLeod, 14; Haley Beyerlein, 14; Christian Loomis, 13; Ashley Brunenan, 13; Savannah Smith, 14; Madeline Hartman, 14; Audrey Buckley, 14; Sami Copeland, 13; Emily Miller, 13; Matthew DuBois, 14; Dean Neale, 14; Emily Wilson, 13; Kailey Carpenter, 13; and Emma Fazio, 14.
Julianne Hall, 7, of Prine Elementary, drew a soldier, or maybe herself, standing next to an American flag. The smiling person appears to be wearing fuzzy red bedroom slippers and, perhaps, pajamas. Her message was, "Thank you for keeping our family safe."
Skyler Boggs of Prine Elementary wrote, "Go people in America" and drew a flag-waving person with a big smile.
Shealyn Miklavic, 8, of B.D. Gullet Elementary, went totally creative and drew a giant Easter Bunny. Who would have thought?
And, finally, Austin Ross, also of Prine, drew a terrific American flag and wrote, "Go USA!" across the sky on top of it.
The show Satuday will have live music, including the Manatee High Drum Line and the Victory Belles, who sing classic American songs.
"They will sing, 'American the Beautiful,' 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,' and 'Shoo Shoo Baby,' Service Salute' and 'GI Jive,' '' Isham said of the Victory Belles.
Popular local blues singer and Army veteran Jesse Yawn will perform at 6:30 p.m.
Audience members are asked to bring beef jerky, protein bars, powdered drinks and socks that can be sent to troops
Tickets at the door are $8 and cash only, but tickets purchased online at www.manateeplayers.com/box office are $2, plus a $2 fee. Tickets can also be purchased in advance for $2 in cash at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave. W., Bradenton.