By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
Some local veterans faced questions last Thursday from an unlikely source: kindergartners.
Effingham Early Learning Center students gathered in front of the veterans and listened to their answers about their military service. The questions, compiled in the different kindergarten sections, were read off by an instructor as the tiny questioners sat in rows in the cafeteria.
Some of the answers drew applause from the students or laughter. For example, some of the children undoubtedly asked their teacher or parents about what a “hooch” looked like in Vietnam. Or what does that word “draft” mean? And they learned a tanker can be a person driving a tank or a huge ship that carries fuel for the Navy.
They also learned from the veterans there are many “bosses” in the military. That fact is something to keep in mind as kindergartners are urged to listen to their teachers in school.
Afterward, the veterans passed out little American flags that produced a flurry of red, white and blue as the students enthusiastically waved their gifts. It was a good way to introduce Veterans Day activities to the kindergartners, who are like sponges many times on picking up information.
Some seventh graders at Effingham Junior High School had picked up answers on Veterans Day facts through different projects prior to the Veterans Day holiday observance last Friday.
“We looked at different veterans memorials for different towns, and we talked about differences between Veterans Day and Memorial Day,” said Rachael Koterba about the lessons covered before Veterans Day in Ryan Wohltman’s social studies classes.
“Veterans Day honors all the veterans who served in the military or fought in different wars. Memorial Day is for those who died,” said Jacob Foster.
“We also watched videos on what Veterans Day is all about. It showed the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, too,” Grace Mason said.
The importance of Veterans Day was also emphasized by students sharing their family ties to local veterans or family friends who are veterans, Koterba said.
“And we learned to not be afraid to say thank you to a veteran on Veterans Day,” Koterba said.
The EJHS students also asked questions of veterans, Foster said.
“One question was what made them go into the military or whatever branch they were in,” Foster said.
Koterba, Mason and Foster said they all enjoyed learning about Veterans Day in this way.
Music, readings and videos were part of the Veterans Day ceremony at St. Anthony Grade School last week. All the grades at the Catholic school performed different music before veterans gathered in the school gym. There was a rousing melody that honored all the different branches – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
The parents and grandparents of different St. Anthony students waved American flags as their branch was recognized. Honor candles were displayed, and a dance performance by a group of students got toes tapping with the playing of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” made popular during World War II.
One video explained the importance of Veterans Day for the different generations of the country. It showed President Ronald Reagan speaking on Veterans Day in 1985 as he reflected on remembering veterans who sacrificed their lives for their country.
“We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives — the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for our country, for us. And all we can do is remember.”
Some of the veterans in the audience were very young when they joined the military. Now, they are older and wiser and proud of what they did for their country. And they definitely enjoy it when children recognize them.
Each year, Central School students honor some of the men and women who have served their country in the military. Many of them are loved ones of the students. The students offer music and essays during the annual Veterans Day ceremony.
It is a way that a generation of future citizens honors those who gave part of their lives for ensuring freedom prevails in our country. The Central School Veterans Day ceremony celebrated its 19th year last week.