Patriotic hymns and red, white, and blue in a variety of arrangements were but a couple of the ways students honored veterans last week across Greenfield’s school district.
On Monday, McClain High School began by inviting veterans to breakfast. Following that was a program in the new gym.
With veterans of all ages and branches of the military seated in the center of the gym and students filling the bleachers, the program unfolded, peppered with patriotic songs — some sung by students, others played by the concert band.
Snyder, a veteran and a teacher, was the special speaker. Throughout his presentation about what it means to be a veteran, he asked those present to consider a number of things: the willingness of a person in the military to lay it all on the line for the betterment of others; the family and friends of those who are deployed whose lives are changed, too, for the service of their loved one; and the coming home part, after a soldier has seen what they’ve seen and done what is done in times of war, and how hard it can be to reconcile the safety of home with the chaos of fighting and all the changes it brings to those who are a part of it.
“War is hell,” Snyder said. “It changes you in ways that you can’t explain.”
He spoke of how, once upon a time, soldiers returning home were celebrated. Then during Vietnam, returning soldiers were met with protests. Now, soldiers are deployed and returning home every day.
He urged everyone to thank a veteran, not out of obligation, but for their willingness to sacrifice everything, for leaving their families to go off into hostile places in the name of freedom, and for those who didn’t and don’t make it home.
Near the conclusion of the program, with swinging, spinning, and flying guns, clicking heels, and the cadence of the synchronized movements of shined shoes and rifle butts pounded out on the wooden floor of the gymnasium, the McClain Cadet Corps Drill Team dazzled the crowd with its performance and was met with a standing ovation by veterans and students.
Following the program, veterans were invited to lunch with middle school students in the cafeteria, which had been decorated in red, white and blue and with photographs of veterans. There were also paintings and drawings, a lot crafted by elementary students.
The hallways of the middle school were lined with the red, white and blue stars, each depicting a veterans name, and in one spot by the office on the first floor, forming the American flag. Doors throughout the middle school were also decorated to reflect the efforts of the students of that classroom to honor veterans.
On Tuesday at Rainsboro Elementary, fifth grade students served lunch to veterans. It was a small way to show appreciation to those who have served our country, said Missy West, a PTO member who has helped organize the event for the last eight years.
On the tables were hand-colored, patriotic place mats and red, white and blue foil decorations. On the place mats were hand-written messages from the student who made it to the veteran that would sit there.
Lunch was followed by a program where the fifth graders took to the stage and raised their voices in songs and poems packed with heart and patriotism to honor veterans.
The Buckskin Elementary students on Thursday also sang to honor those who have fought to keep the nation free.
At one point during both programs, each led by music teacher Victoria Mikkelsen, all were asked to stand for the singing of the national anthem. At another point, students sang the songs of each military branch and held that branch’s flag during the song. All veterans were asked to rise during the playing of the song belonging to the branch they served with.
“May we never forget freedom isn’t free, and may we never forget you, our heroes,” recited a child toward the end of each program.
As the last song came to a close, a large American flag was unfurled by the students. They held it aloft, and with the movement of their hands beneath, the flag appeared to billow.
In Buckskin, one veteran stood after the program and thanked the children for what they did.
“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” Rainboro Principal Maggie Lyons told the veterans. “You are our heroes.”
After the Buckskin program, principal Mike Shumate led a chant among the students, the gymnasium filled with shouts of “USA.”
“Thank you,” Buckskin and Rainsboro students said to veterans near the end of their respective programs, “for making this the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Angela Shepherd is a correspondent for the Greenfield Exempted Village School District.