Hundreds of students, parents, school staff and local dignitaries crowded into the auditorium at Evergreen Elementary School April 20 for the official grand opening ceremony for Clover Park School District’s newest and final of six completed elementary school construction projects at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“I love this school. It’s a beautiful building and the kids are so excited. The kids deserve this school,” Janette Catahan said, as she brought her 6-year-old son Joshua into the auditorium to gather with his classmates and prepare to sing during the ceremony.
Joshua was decked out in a black suit and joined dozens of other finely dressed, first- through- third-graders to sing a song, “All I Really Need,” at the end of the ceremony.
“Joshua has been playing the song on YouTube and singing along to practice,” his mom said. “I’m just glad the parents and all the community came together like this. It’s really a blessing.”
Catahan videotaped the children singing so she could later play the video for her husband, Spc. Jemarjo Catahan, 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, who is deployed in Afghanistan.
“We talked last night (online), and Joshua told him today is the big day — our concert, so I had to record it for my husband,” she said.
“That’s my girl,” said Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Michael Moeini, 448th Civil Affairs Battalion, 364th Civil Affairs Brigade as his 8-year-old daughter, Veronica sang with her classmates to the patriotic Lee Greenwood song, “Proud to Be an American.”
Moeini mouthed the words as the children sang: “And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today. ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land. God bless the U.S.A.”
“I loved it,” he said at the end of the song. “It reminds me of why I get up every morning.”
During the ceremony, several speakers spoke of the importance of creating an educational environment for Joint Base Lewis-McChord families where parents deployed or in garrison know their children are well-cared for, safe and able to learn.
“Our students and staff are thriving in this new school,” said Debbie LeBeau, superintendent of Clover Park School District.
“We see (Evergreen) for what it really is — an investment in the lives of our young people,” said Marty Shafer, president, Clover Park School District Board of Directors. “To our military, let me say how grateful we are for your sacrifice.”
Shafer said investing in the young people on military bases is especially important because Washington state is home to 52,000 military children who have at least one parent serving in the military. Congressman Denny Heck, who serves Washington’s 10th District, continued that thought.
“When mom and dad are deployed, they’re not entitled to a class A education (for their children); they are owed it,” he said.
Colonel Daniel Morgan, joint base garrison commander at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, lauded the students, parents, teachers, school district and beauty of the new facility.
“I walk these halls, and it’s absolutely amazing,” Morgan said. “Clover Park is all about the collaboration; without you it couldn’t work. It is an absolutely stellar partnership.”