Lucerne Valley USD veterans who were honored during the November 9th ceremony, administrators and dignitaries gathered for a group photo following the event. Peter Day photo
LUCERNE VALLEY, Calif. - November 10, 2023 — A month after the Lucerne Valley Unified School District’s Board of Trustees approved a $1,000 annual stipend to all district employees who have served in the military, the district held an emotion-packed ceremony on November 9 to honor nine current employees for their service to our country.
Complete with the high school’s band performing the National Anthem and its Ranger cadets presenting the colors, the event was held on hallowed ground — the Sgt. Brian Walker Memorial Gymnasium, which was named in memory of 2005 Lucerne Valley High School graduate Brian Walker. Walker died after his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device on May 13, 2012.
“Remember, Brian Walker was a student just like you,” longtime teacher and current Lucerne Valley Teachers Association President Cindy Lazenby said. “He was an athlete. He was funny. He had dreams just like you.”
“He will forever being in our hearts,” added Assistant Superintendent Nate Lambdin, who served as the event master of ceremonies, before leading a moment of silence to remember the fallen hero.
Keynote speaker Assemblyman Tom Lackey (AD-34) shared thoughts on the country’s challenges and called the district’s commitment to veterans “remarkable.”
Longtime LVUSD school board member Tom Courtney, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1968 to 1972, spoke of the importance of honoring our veterans.“These people served our country, and now they serve our school district. We need that kind of leadership in schools today. They know that freedoms are not free.”
During the formal presentation of the awards, Lambdin said, “I want to express my deepest respect and admiration to these and others who have served.”
The LVUSD staff members receiving special recognition are Middle/High School counselor Kevin Barda (California Army National Guard, 1991-1994), Middle School teacher Gary Cope (United States Marine Corp, 1995-2000), maintenance and operations staff member Mark Hart (United States Army, 1985-1990), Elementary School teacher Sheri Immel (United States Air Force, 1991-1995), Middle High School teacher/Rangers instructor Jacob Klinger (United States Army, 2005-2010), Elementary School teacher Christen Latour (United States Navy, 2004-2006), Middle High School teacher Louis Madrid (United States Marine Corps 2010-2014), Middle High School Principal Jason Story (United States Navy, 1993-1994), and transportation staff member Larry Kennedy (United States Air Force, 2003-2005).
VETERAN TASK GROUP
The idea for the annual $1,000 stipend for school district veterans came after longtime school board member Tom Courtney and a group of other school board members and educators from 15 school districts in California, Nevada, Oregon and New York shared ideas. Currently task group meetings are conducted via Zoom. A number of state legislators across both aisles are very interested in supporting veterans, according to members.
“Our dream is to bring our veterans back into our classrooms, maintenance, bus drivers, custodians, management, and all areas of our district,” Courtney says. “These folks served our country and now deserve our respect and acceptance back into our communities with the honor they deserve.”
“To see this come to fruition would be incredible,” said Superintendent Peter Livingston. “We need to support our veterans who have served our country, and these are people who should be helping to build values in our next generation. Our veterans have life experiences and understand what freedom involves. LVUSD will always welcome veterans to work for us.”
Livingston would like to see a pipeline where veterans could have a job when they leave the military working in our schools. “It could be a welder, a mechanic, a teacher, or an administrator. Our veterans have served our Country and deserved to be supported.”
Later that day, during the monthly school board meeting, district administrators commended all involved for the successful event. They were especially impressed with the approximately 500 students who attended the veteran ceremony, all of whom showed respect and support to the district veterans.
“It’s going to go down as one of my best days in my 35 years in the education field,” said Lambdin. “This was a great day.”
Assistant Superintendent Nate Lambdin addresses the district's veterans and about 500 students and teachers who listened in rapt attention. Peter Day photo
Assemblyman Tom Lackey addresses the audience during the Lucerne Valley USD's special ceremony. Peter Day Photo
Longtime school board member Tom Courtney addresses the audience. Courtney spearheaded the district's move to honor its veterans with an annual $1,000 stipend. Peter Day Photo
Students, teachers and others listen intently during the ceremony. Peter Day photo
A Rangers cadet applauds during the event. Peter Day Photo
Evan Herriman salutes during the Rangers' presentation of the colors. Evan leads the Rangers, which is taught by Sgt. Jacob Klinger. Peter Day Photo