As the nation paid tribute over Memorial Day weekend to its fallen heroes, members of the Pleasant View Middle School community held a ceremony with personal meaning.
The school's 21st annual Memorial Ceremony included the reading of 19 names of students, staff and family members from the school community who have died and a former Pleasant View student who died in military service.
"It's a way for the Pleasant View community to come together and honor those we have lost in a supportive way," said Charise Miller, a seventh-grade math teacher who organized this year's ceremony with her colleagues, Danielle Gregor and Shannon Weeks.
"We want to show our students that Pleasant View is a true community," Gregor said. "Our ceremony allows for a positive and loving way for our PV community to grieve."
The ceremony can be a source of strength for those who have lost loved ones, she said.
"I know from personal experience because I lost my son while I have been at Pleasant View," Gregor said. "His name is one of those read at the ceremony."
Homeroom teachers are encouraged to talk with their students about the meaning of Memorial Day and the importance of paying tribute to veterans who lost their lives in service, Miller said.
"We consider this a solemn occasion, so we want our students to approach it in the appropriate way and with the proper attitude," Weeks said.
"We asked them to wear appropriate colors (on May 25), color-coded by grade," she said.
Staff members were asked to wear white, eighth-graders blue and seventh-graders red, Gregor said.
Students and staff gathered outside at the school's memorial garden, which was established in 1997 by former principal Bev Peters.
Peters died in 2015 due to an illness, and her name was read at the ceremony.
The event included the raising of the flag and singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by the choir.
Brianna Garner led her schoolmates in the Pledge of Allegiance and the poems "Memorial Day" and "True Heroes Never Die" were read by Dana Montero-Hernandez and Becky Paul. Skyler Bryant spoke on the meaning of Memorial Day.
As the names of the honored were read by Vanessa Anaya, the school's National Junior Honor Society president, flowers were placed on the memorial brick by Lajuana McCarty, Isaac Mulumba, Taylor Redden and Morgan Witteman.
Haylee Howard and Mackayla Garner played taps before students observed a moment of silence to end the ceremony.
Haylee said she was honored to have a featured role in the ceremony.
" 'Taps' has such a significant and important meaning; I just wanted to make sure my playing represented all that it means," she said.
The eighth-grader said the memorial ceremony is an important event for the school.
"It's nice that we can come together as a kind of community and remember the people we have lost," Haylee said.
The ceremony "gives us a meaningful way to celebrate the lives of those who have passed away," Vanessa said. "It helps make Memorial Day even more meaningful for us."
"A lot of times, our students don't know the people who are being honored, but hearing their names read helps them make a connection about what this holiday is all about," Gregor said.