Patriotic Day

Veterans stand while the Akimel Wind Ensemble plays the "Armed Forces Salute" during the 20th Annual Patriotic Day at Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle School on Friday, April 5, 2013.

[David Jolkovski/AFN]

Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle School in Ahwatukee attracted local government officials and representatives on Friday morning for its 20th Annual Patriotic Day honoring veterans and service members.

Hosted in the school’s gymnasium, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders were joined by guest speaker Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema of District 9, Phoenix Vice Mayor Michael Johnson, a liaison from Gov. Jan Brewer’s office, and a surprise visit from Secretary of State Ken Bennett.

Veterans from American Legion Post 64 in Ahwatukee, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Daughters of the American Revolution, a retired U.S. Air Force major, and active duty members were recognized by the school’s National Junior Honor’s Society. Kyrene de los Lagos Elementary students performed four songs as well as Akimel’s eighth-grade chorus and wind ensemble performing for those in attendance.

During the elementary students’ performance of “Proud to be an American,” the veterans, legions, and other service members stood from their seats on the gym floor and joined their hands in the air.

The topic of the morning: remembering those who have served and learning what patriotism means.

“The highest level of patriotism for me is respect and service,” said Sinema, who challenged students during her speech to find ways to serve others.

“Right now in our country, respect is what’s keeping our government and our community together.”

Always hosted in the spring, Akimel’s Patriotic Day started some 20 years ago, said chairperson Dennis Prince, an eighth-grade teacher at the school who also announced his retirement Friday during the ceremony. Sandwiched between Veterans Day in November and Memorial Day in late May, Prince said the school’s ceremony fits perfectly on the calendar for curriculum so not to interfere with other veterans events in the area.

Akimel Principal Mike Deignan said the event is one of his school’s highlights each year.

“This year we’ve had more high-level government officials than we’ve had in the past,” he said. “And it’s showing kids what it is to really be patriotic.”

Pete Meier, of the American Legion’s Ahwatukee post, sat in the back with his fellow members taking in the festivities as Akimel’s wind ensemble closed the ceremony.

“It has always been a wonderful, patriotic ceremony,” Meier said.

Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle School is located at 2720 E. Liberty Lane. For more information, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

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