Students raise Coins for Corey

Students raise Coins for Corey
In a ceremony brimming with emotion and patriotism in Vermillion, approximately 400 elementary students honored Sgt. Corey Briest of Yankton during a special assembly at Jolley Elementary School Thursday afternoon, Nov. 15.

The young people presented Corey and his wife, Jenny, with a check totaling $1,594.91.

And, at the end of their special meeting, the students stood and sang Corey's favorite song, Proud To Be an American.

Corey, a 1999 graduate of Vermillion High School, acknowledged the students' efforts with a broad smile, applause, and a particularly poignant gesture – a military salute.

Vermillion's young school students have learned much about patriotism and sacrifice in the last two years, thanks to Corey.

But before Thursday, they never had an opportunity to personally meet him.

Corey, while serving with the Yankton-based Charlie Battery of the 1st Battalion/147th Field Artillery of the South Dakota National Guard, received life-threatening – and life-changing injuries.

The Yankton man suffered traumatic brain injuries and blindness from December 2005 roadside bombs in Iraq. After two years of rehabilitation, he still shows signs of his mental and physical limitations.

Barb Schwartz, an instructor at Jolley Elementary, told the Briests of how local students brainstormed to come up with a plan to help the Yankton family.

"We put up posters all over the school," Barb said. "The posters said 'Coins for Corey,' and we put buckets in every classroom for the boys and girls to fill with money.

"And the money came pouring in," she said, noting that Vermillion's youth recognized the importance of a kind gesture to a veteran who had sacrificed so much for them. "We had pennies, nickels, dimes, dollars and checks."

Barb noted that one of Jolley Elementary's teachers said a girl in her classroom spent a weekend raking leaves to raise $5 for Coins for Corey.

Loose change that had been accumulating in many students' piggy banks was also donated.

"Mrs. Moore (the school secretary) told me that she had a lot of students tell her that they brought their allowances to school, and put the money in the buckets for Coins for Corey," Barb said.

Even local youth clubs became involved.

"The Meckling Livestock 4-H Club brought in a check for $100 to put in for Coins for Corey," Barb said. "And this is really amazing – at Austin School, one of the kindergarten classes raised over $200."

The four Jolley Elementary students who, as a committee, planned the Coins for Corey concept – Regan Bye, Jack Brown, Kelly Nielsen and Kasey Nielsen – presented Corey and Jenny with a poster-sized check.

"Corey, on behalf of Austin and Jolley schools, we present this check for $1,594.91," Jack said.

Jenny spoke to the students after the singing and applause had concluded in the auditorium.

"While you were singing, Corey was saluting, and that was a salute to all of you guys," she said. "It is just incredible, all that you have done, and you should be very, very proud of yourselves."

Jenny was impressed with not only the students' generosity, but with the fact that they all knew the lyrics to Corey's favorite song.

"It's a pretty powerful song, and it's cool that all of you kids know the words to it," she said.

Corey also showed his appreciation by clasping his hands together, and moving them in a circular motion.

"It's kind of a joke in our house," Jenny said. "He claps in a round circle, so all you have received a round of applause from us."

The Briests recently moved into a new home in Yankton, built by that community to meet Corey's special needs.

The money students raised, Jenny told Barb after the assembly, likely will be used to purchase exercise equipment for Corey to use inside their new house.

View more photos of this event at

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