Home of the brave: Honoring vets

With songs, skits and stories, the students at area schools were not shy when it came to showing their appreciation for area veterans Friday.

Dozens of veterans attended programs put on by local elementary and high school students in honor of Veterans Day, which is on Monday.

The events are not only a great way for students to honor local vets, but a good opportunity to help children gain a deeper understanding of what veterans do for the country, said Chad Wright, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s a good way to teach children why we are all free today. Kids don’t quite understand that connection when they’re young, but they will,” said Wright, who attended the celebration at Harmar Elementary School where his son Caleb and daughter Mylee attend.

At Harmar, the students participated in robust sing-alongs to patriotic songs and more than two dozen veterans, many accompanied by beaming young relatives attending the school, lined the gymnasium to introduce themselves.

The introductions are a touching part of the annual ceremony said Harmar Principal Cheryl Cook.

“You can just see the pride in a lot of these guys’ eyes when they talk about their children or grandchildren. They didn’t even have these children then, but that’s why they were fighting,” she said.

Despite the cold and blustery weather, none of the Harmar Elementary students seemed to mind when they piled excitedly onto the school’s playground, proudly waving American flags and singing during the culmination of the event.

Harmar fifth grader Taylor Schlicher, 10, said it made him proud to stand with his father Jared, a Navy veteran, during the assembly.

“He thinks it’s important because he wants to protect our country. It makes me happy he’s here today,” said Schlicher.

The program was a good way to reflect about what veterans do, said fellow fifth-grader Nondyce Gulick, 10.

“I like that we get to think about how people helped our country and actually take time and remember them,” she said.

The students at Washington Elementary also took time out to honor area servicemen. The school gathered in the gymnasium Friday morning as a choir performed a variety of patriotic songs and gave certificates and goody bags to around 20 veterans in attendance.

Marine veteran Dave Smith, 78, said he thought the program was wonderful.

“It gives the kids a better understanding of what freedom is all about,” said Smith, who got boisterous hugs from his granddaughters Kenzie and Lyanna Smith as the event ended.

In addition to a variety of upbeat tunes, the students played the official songs of each of the military branches-Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines-and asked veterans from those branches to stand and be recognized during their respective songs.

Phillips Elementary also held a Friday afternoon program, with students doing everything from singing to sharing research about the military.

“Some are making things to display. Some are reading poems. Our fourth graders are reading facts about each branch,” said fourth grade teacher Kim Hiatt.

The school also prepared its honor wall, adorned with stars displaying the names of veterans the students know, she added.

At Belpre High School, the seventh and eighth graders were also invited to attend an afternoon assembly that included choir and band performances as well as a talk from an area veteran.

After the presentation, the veterans were served refreshments and students were given the opportunity to sit and talk with them.

Senior class vice president Katie Hall said the annual event is an important one to her.

“Our country is the greatest in the world because we have freedoms that no one else does and our veterans have given us that,” she said.