KISD concert

The Ellison High School wind ensemble performs Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, during the Killeen ISD Musical Salute to Veterans that included ensembles from all four of the district's high schools and the Heights Concert Band.

TODD MARTIN/KISD

From proud, gallant marches to soft spirituals and soaring patriotic anthems, Killeen ISD high school wind ensembles brought musical tribute to America’s veterans.

The Tuesday concert set a tone for a holiday weekend all about honoring military service.

About 200 KISD band students making up wind ensembles from each high school performed at Ellison High School Auditorium.

A 12-voice KISD faculty choir served as prelude and the 60-plus member Heights Concert Band provided the finale in the musical tribute.

Friday is a holiday in KISD schools in honor of Veterans Day, which falls on Saturday. The annual city of Killeen parade begins downtown at 11 a.m. Saturday and will include numerous student groups.

In addition, schools are conducting assemblies throughout the week, mainly on Thursday, to honor veterans and their service.

The Heights Concert Band is a 40-year-old community group of adult musicians. The band played Tuesday with select high school students. In addition, members of the Harker Heights High School and Copperas Cove High School choirs joined in the finale.

Randy Kelley, assistant director of fine arts in KISD, recently took over as conductor of the community band.

A former band director of 32 years, including 13 years in Copperas Cove, Kelley said the musical salute to veterans is a natural way to offer thanks to service members.

“I can’t think of a better way for kids and adults to share their musical talents for such a significant cause,” he said. “One thing that makes a musical salute to our veterans special, exciting and moving is the amount of some of the most beautiful music ever composed to choose from for a concert.”

Veterans’ tributes and parade, particular in the shadow of Fort Hood, are always special for students and instructors in the fine arts.

“Living so close to Fort Hood and being in the presence of soldiers brings a new perspective to the importance of showing our appreciation,” Kelley said.

HARKER HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY

A month ago, Harker Heights Elementary School honored school custodian Walter White and bilingual aide Jose Charles, both Vietnam-era veterans.

Both school staff members served in the military during the waning years of that war and both serve today as role models for students known around the school for their huge hearts and encouraging words.

In addition to a medallion from the Rotary-sponsored Early Act First Knight program, the Vietnam Veterans Association awarded the school staff members a commemoration from the Department of Defense.

“I was super surprised,” said Charles. “It was a great feeling to receive this award after so many years gone by.”

Now 65 years of age, Charles served from 1974 to 1994 and retired as a sergeant first class. After working as a corrections officer, his granddaughter’s principal suggested he come work at the school.

He started as a crossing guard, before Principal Carolyn Dugger hired him as a bilingual aide. “This is an awesome job,” he said, now in his fourth year in KISD.

Coincidentally, White also served in the military from 1974 to 1995, beginning as a teenager and doing “cleanup duty” near the end of the conflict in Vietnam. He has worked as a school custodian in KISD 21 years.

“When she told me about this award, I cried,” he said explaining how touched he was when Dugger told him about the honor. “I didn’t realize what I did carried so much impact after all these years.”

Both men often get opportunities to offer encouragement to students in need of a steady hand.

“I keep this job because every now and then I’m asked to encourage a child,” White said. “They are always waving and shaking my hand.”

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