Confession: I have never really done anything to celebrate Veteran’s Day. I grew up with patriotic parents that taught me respect and thankfulness for those that fight to protect our family and our freedom, but no one in my immediate family ever served (besides my father who briefly served and was honorably discharged due to medical reasons). Although I had cousins and uncles who have served in the armed forces, they were not people I saw often enough (especially in their roles as soldiers) to leave a true appreciation for Veteran’s Day. I have never really done anything to celebrate Veteran’s Day – until today.
A new principal leads the Elementary School our daughters attend this year. She brought the idea of Bring A Veteran To School Day to our PTA. Apparently this is a National Program. Why knew? Not me. There are national guidelines and suggestions and ideas to encourage schools across the country to participate. (More information at: http://www.history.com/take-a-veteran-to-school). Another school in our county offered their suggestions, experience, and paperwork used to plan the event and we said, “Sure, let’s do it!”
Each child was given a form to bring home and the chance to invite a Vet. The form allowed the child and Veteran to share their names and the branch of the service the Veteran served, years served, places served etc. We estimated getting about 20-30 of these back since this was our first year. We ended up with over 70 Veteran’s today!
They were greeted by students who escorted them to the school’s library, where they we welcomed, checked in, and enjoyed breakfast foods provided by the PTA with donations from our local grocery store and Chick-Fil-A.
After breakfast we had the Veterans sit in the school’s cafeteria in a special area sectioned off for them. Students entered and sat on the floor facing the Veterans. As members of each branch of the military were announced, students held the flag for that particular branch. Each Veteran was announced along with their host student, and they both stood. As I announced their names, I found myself getting choked up, watching the adoring eyes of these students as they stood and waved at their honored guest. So many fathers, mothers, grandfathers, great grandfathers, cousins, uncles, friends etc. My cousin came from over 3 hours away. A friend’s father left Massachusetts in the middle of a storm to join us! These Vets showed up in a BIG way and each Veteran was given a laminated American flag painting with a letter from a child, a flag pin, and a card. Student helpers handed out these treats.
Following the announcing of Veteran’s, our school’s music teacher led the students in standing and singing 2 songs to the Veteran’s. The first was a more fast paced “I love America and so do you song.” The second, which featured solos from two talented teachers, included a chorus from the children. I can’t remember the words exactly, because by this point, I was crying the kind of cry that actually makes whimper noises, but it went something like…”What can we say to a hero? We can say thank you…we are blessed because of you.” Sob. Sob. Sob. Oh wait – and yes, more sob.
Veterans then had the opportunity to visit their host student’s room and answer questions, share medals and stories, and interact with the students…sort of a show-n-tell type interaction.
I’m not sure I can fully or eloquently describe my emotions this morning. My heart was as full with pride as my eyes were with tears. I stood staring at these generous people, dressed in a variety of uniforms…some with many wrinkles that were signs of many stories of courage and strife. Some were fresh faced, filled with hope and pride. All of them were staring back at 500 children…500 beautiful, angelic children who were singing their hearts out, full of pride, smiling wide. They are young, but they “got it.” You could see it. You could feel it. The admiration. The joy. The utter thankfulness. These Veterans were the faces that these students will always remember and associate with Veteran’s Day. These kids will likely never see Veteran’s day as “Another Monday we have off from school” like I did as a child. They will see it as it should be seen, as a day to honor those individuals who DESERVE our honor. And every child deserves the opportunity to experience a day as magical as today.
If you’d like information on ideas to celebrate Veteran’s Day with your children or school, I’d happily share the information we have. Feel free to contact us through the website or at firstname.lastname@example.org
What does your family or your school do to honor our Veteran’s? Share with us!