Servicemen receive lasting serenade from Westport students

WESTPORT When Kenda James heard the Westport Central Schools a cappella group perform the national anthem in December, she wanted to have a copy for herself. James, a Willsboro resident and Navy Commodore, heard the group perform while attending a Westport basketball game. After the game, she approached Westport school board member Jim Carroll to see if it was possible to get a recording of The Star Spangled Banner to take when she deploys. Not only was it possible, but Westport school officials organized a small ceremony to recognize the sacrifices of military personnel and their families. A recognition event was held during the girls junior varsity basketball game Jan. 31. Along with James, Leslie Fleury and Larry and Kate Clarke were presented flowers and CD recordings of the a cappella group. When we were asked to record our version of The Star Spangled Banner I was honored. It means a lot that our voices will be with some of the people that serve our country, said a cappella group leader Alyssa Carroll. The group includes seniors Alyssa Carroll, Kelsey Sears and Kristen Linder; and sophomores Kelsey Carroll, Emily Wing and Morgan Robare. Alyssa Carroll organized the group as part of an independent study music theory course. "I wanted to create a choral group to learn how to conduct, and to improve my musical ability. Each member of my group gets community service hours for their rehearsal and performance time," said Alyssa Carroll. The version of the national anthem the a cappella group performs at home games is a three-part piece arranged by Henry Leck. The students came to school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to make the recording, which was taped by Jim Carroll. I sing a lot myself, and when I hear it here, it brings such tears to my eyes because they do such a great job, said James. Students Spencer Mehr, Andrew Kuntz and Devin Martin read patriotic salutes they wrote, addressing the value of the sacrifices made by servicemen and women. Kuntz started the ceremony by stressing the need to recognize all the other members of the community and their families who are already serving our country abroad. They act to protect and preserve the ideals upon which our country was created and continues to uphold. Their actions and those of all others like them are not for a singular cause but for many, and for the greater good. So as they support the ideals of freedom and equality abroad I would ask all of you to support it locally and in your everyday lives, said senior Andrew Kuntz. Mehr stated the flag of the United States didnt represent the country, but its citizens. I pledge allegiance not to a country but to its inhabitants struggles. And none of us struggle more than the members of our Armed Forces and their families. I dont owe this country my allegiance, I owe it my life. As futile as it is I want to thank all the service members who are serving today, tomorrow and yesterday, for everything, said Mehr. Fleury, a U.S. Navy petty officer, said the ceremony was moving. It was nice to know the younger generation has an intuitive respect for the past generations of servicemen, said Fleury. James is married to Bill James, and is the mother of Marion James, who is a sophomore at Willsboro Central School. She will be deploying to Kuwait as commander of forward headquarters in support of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom for 10 months. She serves with the Navy Cargo Handling and Port Group Three (NCG-3) headquartered in Fort Dix, N.J. When she deploys, James will mobilize with about 600 personnel in air and cargo handling, customs, and headquarters staff. Deployments are always hard on families. And while I'm sure it will be difficult for my family and myself, I am honored to have been selected for this assignment. As reservists, this is what we train for, said James. Fleury is the daughter of Wayne and Juanita Napper, wife of Chris Fleury and mother of Karlee Vaughan and Sienna Fleury, who are both students at Westport Central School. Fleury is a 2nd Class Petty Officer and a corpsman who provides medical support for Navy Mobile Construction Battalion Twenty-Seven (NMCB-27), and drills in Albany. She will be activated sometime between May and July, and once activated will spend nine months in Iraq. The ceremony also recognized Larry and Kate Clarke, parents of U.S. Army Warrant Officer Lawrence Clarke. Officer Clarke is currently serving in Iraq for a 15-month deployment, and currently has nine soldiers under his direct supervision. He, his wife and their seven-year-old daughter, Ricki, reside in Texas. The Clarkes are both employed at Westport Central School.

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