Matamoras Elementary students gathered in the school's gymnasium to sing patriotic songs and thank a few local veterans Friday in observance of National POW/MIA Recognition Day.
"We want the kids to learn to appreciate the veterans and what they have done," said Principal Bill Wotring.
The school has held a special program to observe the national day for 21 years. During Friday's program, some of the students read from thank you letters they wrote for the veterans.
ASHLEY HILL The Marietta Times
Matamoras Elementary students sing during a program that was held at the school Friday in observance of National POW/MIA Recognition Day.
Fourth grade student Isabel Johnson, 9, said she's happy she has the freedom to do things like ride her bike and play sports.
"Thank you for giving me all these rights and for fighting for my country," she read from her letter.
State Rep. Jennifer Garrison, D-Marietta also spoke during the program, and she said she was pleased to hear that the students truly appreciate the freedoms they have.
"I can tell you if it weren't for these (veterans), you would not have that freedom and neither would I," she said.
A few former POWs were on hand for the program and they shared with the children some of the experiences they had during war.
Woodsfield resident and U.S. Army veteran Herman Zerger recalled what the conditions were like when he was a POW in World War II.
"I suffered from malnutrition and frozen feet," he said. "I was hungry, cold, beat up and battered, but I was alive."
Also honored during the ceremony was Newport native Christopher Rutherford, who died from his injuries after a roadside bomb exploded while he was serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2007.
Wotring recalled Rutherford as being a "wonderful young man" and said he was an exemplary student, athlete, son, brother, friend, christian and military officer.
"In every aspect, Christopher Rutherford was an excellent example that all young people may follow," he said.
Rutherford's grandparents, Herman and Eileen Thomas, of Newport, attended the program. Herman Thomas saluted a photo of his grandson that hung on a wall just inside the front doors of the school.
"We should never forget the price he paid," he said. "As time goes on, it tends to fade away in the community."