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Jackson Park welcomes home moms and dads

By the last song of the Jackson Park Elementary School welcome-home rally, there was scarcely a dry eye in the audience.

Teachers and staff stood before the packed gymnasium, and the audience joined in when they sang “God Bless the U.S.A.”

“When they sang the song at the end, all I could do was cry,” said Shelly Zukowski, whose husband Geoffrey recently returned from deployment on the USS Carl Vinson.

The couple was at the school to see their daughter, MacKenzie Scott, but Geoffrey said he is also getting acquainted with his 5-month-old son, Robert, who was born while he was deployed.

With the sailors’ return still fresh on everyone’s mind, the rally was well-timed.

“Our assembly is in respect and honor of everything they did to protect the U.S.A.,” Shirley Kenmochi, Jackson Park principal, told the crowd.

The program consisted of several student musical performances, a brassy trumpet solo by sixth-grade teacher Tim McNett, a vocal solo by librarian Kathy Haynes and and a poem performed by Crista Ramirez’s second-grade class.

“The thing about our dads is they keep our country safe,” the poem began.

It was followed by pupils explaining things they love about their fathers. “My dad lets me ride horses,” “My dad lets my family visit on the boat” and “My dad downloads games on the Internet for me” were among the youngsters’ responses.

James Brown, a serviceman who recently returned with the Vinson, thanked students for the moral support they provided while the troops were deployed.

“The wall you decorated (at school), sending us cookies, candies and cards — we appreciate all of your hard work,” Brown said.

After the assembly, families milled around in the library and talked to teachers and staff.

The school’s atmosphere has changed since the sailors’ return, teachers said.

“There is a sense of excitement, and the kids feel better. They are more talkative. I’ve been getting more calls from parents who are helping with homework, and who want to come in,” said fifth-grade teacher Suzanne Sullivan.

Third-grader Brian Pratt said life has been more fun, and he feels more relaxed since his dad returned.

“It is more safe,” Pratt said. “When my mom was here I didn’t feel as safe, like someone would break in. I’m glad he’s home.”

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