Fifth-grade twins Taylor and Lauren Velez at Hannah Martin Elementary School, Huntley, faced a unique and challenging time as their father, Sgt. Otilio Velez, prepared for deployment to Afghanistan earlier this month.
Velez is expected to remain in Afghanistan throughout the next year.
Prior to his deployment, the two girls and their classmates honored Sgt. Velez with a special "Red, White, and Blue Send-Off."
Cindy Blonski's fifth-grade class and Lindsey Nothnagel's multi-age fourth- and fifth-grade class joined forces to sing "America" and perform a chorale reading of the poem "Pride of Our Country."
Students also created posters with signatures and well-wishes that accompanied the Velez family to the Deployment Ceremony in Arlington Heights on March 5.
Taylor explained to her classmates that a yellow ribbon is a symbol of hope while families wait for their loved ones to return from service. With that in mind, yellow ribbons were tied around the classroom flag and will remain there until Velez's safe return.
The fifth-grade curriculum includes learning about the various conflicts of war the United States has been involved in. This knowledge has heightened student awareness of the sacrifices others have made, and continue to make, for our nation's freedom. The students will be writing letters of support to Sgt. Velez while he is in Afghanistan and look forward to celebrating his homecoming next year.