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HEIGHTS VETERAN’S PROGRAM

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ALFRED GOODSON could not help but shead a tear or two. A month away from his 91st birthday,

the navy veteran who was days away from from shipping out to take part in the biggest

invasion that never happened was touched by the cheers, clapping and warm smiles of Heights

Elementary School students who welcomed him and more than three dozen military veterans to

the start of the school’s fifth annual Veterans Program on Thursday.

“These young, innocent faces are our future,” said Goodson. “I always pray that they never

have to see and endure some of the things we had to.”

Goodson enlisted in the navy in early May of 1945, shortly after the surrender of German

forces in Europe and Italy. Shortly after completing basic training, Goodson found himself bound

for Guam, where he prepare to take part in Operation Olympic, the first of a two-pronged invasion

of southern Japan that was scheduled for November 1945. The invasion — and the lives of

Goodson and thousands of other Americans — was spared when atomic bombs were used on

Hiroshima and Nagasaki that led to the unconditional surrender of Japan.

He found joy sitting with a group of third-graders who asked him questions about his experience

along with sharing his tales of life growing up in a world far different that the one he lived

in as a 10-year-old.

The inspiration for the Heights Veterans Program began in May of 2014 when the school’s

third graders responded to a newspaper article that sought volunteers to place flags on the

gravesites of veterans in Galveston Memorial Park. The experience was so enriching for the

students that Karyn Marshall, then a third-grade teacher at Heights, put together a plan that led

to the school receiving a grant from the Texas City ISD Foundation For the Future.

Since then, the “Meet Me for Lunch” event has served as the kickoff for a year-long relationship

between the veterans, who are paired with students. There is an annual Birthday Bash

where students make cards and have cake and punch with the veterans and ends with the

placing of the flags at Galveston Memorial Park, where over 1,000 flags were placed last year.

“We want our kids to learn about the military and what they have done and what they do for

us,” said Kayla McClain, one of the Heights third grade teachers. This is something we couldn’t

do with a book or history videos.”

Heights has added a patriotic assembly that will be held on November 6. The school wanted

to have an evening event that would also allow the parents of the students to participate in the

experience.

Pearly Young is one of a handful of veterans who have participated in each of the “Meet Me

For Lunch” events. The Texas City native served two tours in Vietnam during a 22-year career in

the army, where he retired as a Sgt., 1st Class. Young, who has “lots and lots of grandchildren

and great grandchildren,” also felt his emotions welling up.

“You can’t explain the joy we feel when we’re around these kids,” he said. “It touches your

heart and reminds you what this world is all about.”

The students felt the same way.

“It’s fun to have them here,” said third-grader Christopher Washington. “It makes me think

about being a soldier one day.”

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