Home on leave for only one more day before shipping back to Iraq for duty, Sean McNabb, of Belpre, spent that time with area students, trying to pass on an important message.
"Kids just need to understand the importance of veterans, the ones of my time and the older ones who came before us," said McNabb, 38, who spent the day Tuesday at Little Hocking Elementary. "Their lives are what gives them freedom today and all the things they enjoy. That's the message I want to get across."
KATE YORK The Marietta Times
U.S. Marine and Iraq War veteran Logan Ash, 27, holds his 3-month-old daughter, Addison, Tuesday as he takes part in a Veterans Day ceremony at Harmar Elementary, which he attended as a child. The school was one of several to honor veterans Tuesday.
"It's about making a sacrifice," said third-grader Bryar Powell, 9, after his class heard McNabb and other veterans speak Tuesday. "That's why we honor veterans."
Little Hocking was one of many Washington County schools to make art, sing songs and say thank-yous in person to veterans Tuesday, a day early due to the holiday today, for which most schools are off.
Leaving today to complete his second Army National Guard deployment in Iraq after a 15-day leave, McNabb, a father of four, says the greatest sacrifice he makes serving his country is the time away from wife Angie and daughters, Brittany and Kayla, both 15, Alexis, 9, and Alysa, 20 months.
"I'm here just long enough to start to get used to things again," he said. "My 20-month-old wanted nothing to do with me for the first few days. Who's to say she's not going to forget me again?"
Iraq War veteran and former Harmar Elementary student Logan Ash also had his young daughter on his mind - and in his arms - Tuesday as he attended a veterans celebration at the school.
Clad in patriotic gear, 3-month-old Addison was held by her father as the students sang songs and released balloons in honor of lives lost.
"I make it a habit to come back here as often as I can, but it's different coming back for Veteran's Day," said Ash, 27, a U.S. Marine for the last nine years. "I think this is extremely important for the students. It's what missing in a lot of schools."
The ceremony at the school is more than a decade old but has taken on special meaning since Sept. 11, 2001, said Harmar music teacher Michael Tobar.
"It took on a whole different significance to the grown-ups then and maybe the kids recognized it, too," he said. "Since then, it's been very meaningful and emotional to everyone involved."
Veterans in attendance, many of whom were the great-grandfathers, grandfathers and fathers of Harmar students, held back tears in the packed gym as the children paid tribute to them. Each was then given the chance to speak and share their story.
"We think they get our message: We care," said Harmar Principal Cheryl Cook.
At Putnam Elementary, students put their emotions toward veterans into artwork, each drawing their own version of a monument for those who have served in the military. The drawings were shared with World War II veteran Clair Schwendeman as he spoke to each class at the school Tuesday.
"They asked me a million questions," said Schwendeman, of Lowell, who had never sat down with small groups of students before. "They recognized my uniform and I got a lot of respect for that. They've been taught well."
Putnam teacher Pam Hart said this generation of students understands war and service much better than their parents may think.
"So many kids have family members serving right now," she said. "Unlike in my era, when not as much was going on, they can really grasp the sacrifice people have to make. They have aunts, uncles, cousins, moms and dads who are doing it."
Fifth-grader Jaleel Ismail, 10, said he and his classmates really responded to Schwendeman's stories.
"He risked his life to help this country," he said. "We understood that."
Schwendeman said the highlight for many of the students seemed to be when they were able to touch an American flag that has been on a mission in Iraq. He was presented with the flag in recognition of his 60 years in the American Legion.
"They had never touched a flag that had been in combat before, and it's different than the flag out in the school yard," Schwendeman said. "This was passed around and it was a real thing. They could touch it, and I think that helped them understand."
At Little Hocking Elementary, it was McNabb, reporting for duty again today, who drove home the Veterans Day lessons for students, many of whom know his daughter Alexis, a fourth-grader at the school who donned his Army shirt Tuesday.
"It would be so hard to go through that and be apart and worried," said third-grader Taylor Vickers, 8. "I can't imagine."
But it was another veteran at the school who made sure the young students knew that there is life after war - and it can be great.
"War is terrible," said World War II veteran Bob McDonald. "But you have to live life after - keep learning and living, because war is only a step in life. I'm 85 years old, and I'm still here trying to make this world a little better place than when I came into it."