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Kids Help Stage Salute to Veterans

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Uncle Sam smiled and waved as he clutched a large bunch of red, white and blue balloons.

Flag-waving elementary school children each deposited a red or white carnation in remembrance at the water’s edge.

And as the final notes of the national anthem died away, a World War II-vintage P-51 Mustang fighter plane roared across overcast November skies and Coast Guard vessels sprayed water in a liquid salute.

With equal parts celebration and commemoration, 270 kindergarten through sixth-grade Hollywood Beach School students joined parents and military and civilian dignitaries Thursday in a rousing early Veterans Day observance.

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“It’s all about good old-fashioned flag-waving,” said Brandy Dinovitz, event organizer and mother of two at the school. "[Children] see so many people burning the flag, I want them to see people saluting it.”

There was plenty of that. And the stray goose bump or two. And the occasional moist eye.

A mere three weeks ago, Dinovitz envisioned a modest attempt to revive a school tradition that had gone unmarked since 1988. Instead, the occasion transformed into a multicultural, intergenerational rally round the flag for the unincorporated beachfront community near Oxnard.

A florist donated a wreath, which was thrown into the ocean. The local community services district came up with money to buy flowers for the children. A parent who is a firefighter provided fire trucks. The manager of a nearby shopping center dressed up as Uncle Sam.

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Native Americans provided a traditional Chumash blessing to open a short ceremony on the school playground. Color guards from the Marines, Navy, Coast Guard and Sheriff’s Department lent a measure of official solemnity. A representative of the Ventura chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars presented the school with a flag that flew over the White House. Oxnard High School’s 100-piece marching band accompanied pupils on a block-long procession to the ocean.

And for the finale, a Channel Islands Air National Guard C-130 transport airplane dipped its wings in memory of the fallen.

Still, the observance incorporated almost festive overtones.

“The children need something to make it palatable to them, and a good teacher knows that,” said Green Beret Joel Arnold.

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For the handful of aging warriors on hand, the ceremony represented a chance to enlighten the children about what they fought to preserve.

“We just hope the children we see out here will not ever know what we knew,” said Hollywood Beach resident Sid Mantell, 77, who fought in Europe in World War II. “They don’t look at the old veterans like they should.”

But Thursday, the children seemed to get the message.

“My favorite part was the ceremony out here on the beach,” said Matt Zolkover, 11. “I think it was great. They remembered everybody.”

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Added 12-year-old George Godinez, “If I were to die in a war, I would want everybody to honor me.”

Dinovitz heard what she wanted to hear from her family, as well.

“My own son walked up to me afterward and said, ‘You know what that means when that plane went over and dipped its wings two times?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘It means goodby.’ So my heart is full. I feel honored the children know.”


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