FORRESTON — Masks covered the faces that, in past years, spent the morning of Nov. 11 chowing down on a special breakfast in the Forreston Junior/Senior High School cafeteria.
Instead, the crowd of students and their families — including more than 20 veterans— gathered in the school gymnasium at 7 a.m. to celebrate Veterans Day.
Not all students attended the before-school event, but many who did had at least one family member who has served, or is serving, in the U.S. armed forces.
“I am honored to be here today and kick off our celebration of Veterans Day by expressing our appreciation to those of you who have served our great country,” Forrestville Valley Superintendent Sheri Smith said. “To our veterans, please allow me to start our morning by saying, ‘Happy Veterans Day, and thank you.’”
Smith explained that, while she hasn’t served, her father and siblings have a combined total of 74 years of service in the Army, Navy and Air Force.
During the event, the Redbird Regiment played “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a medley of the U.S. armed forces’ anthems. A video with pictures of past and present service members associated with FJSHS students also was played.
All FJSHS students taking a social studies class this term wrote a letter to veterans, which were handed out at the conclusion of the assembly. Before that, though, seven students stood and read their letters.
Madalyn Thiel, a sixth grader, thanked service members for leaving their families to risk their lives fighting to protect our lives and rights.
“I thank the wounded who are freshly healed and recovering. I thank the dead and dying for our lives,” Madalyn said.
Eighth grader Kyla Lamm echoed Madalyn.
“Thank you for the blood, the sweat and the tears that you have put into this country and our rights,” Kyla said. “It amazes me how you are so willing to serve and how willing you would be to die to protect this country.”
Freedom is something everyone in the U.S. can enjoy on a daily basis because of service members, junior Hailey Schultz said.
“We take for granted the gifts you have provided by sacrificing your time and putting your life on the line,” she said.
Those who have not served never will fully understand what veterans are required to do or how brave they were to do it, said Olivia King, a sophomore. Service members have made sacrifices both in war and in times of peace, she said.
“We will never fully understand the depth of your scars,” Olivia said. “But what we can offer you is the recognition you deserve, the gratitude that we ask that you remember that you are loved and that we all appreciate the many sacrifices you had to make to make the hero that you are today.”
Seventh grader Charlie Lindquist agreed.
“You sacrifice so much for us and America will never fully understand,” Charlie said. “There is always a reason for everything, and the reason freedom exists is because of you. America could never thank you enough, and neither can I.”
The willingness to “defend the country, no matter the cost, is inspiring,” freshman Alec Schoonhoven said. The years of dedicated service have not gone unnoticed, he assured veterans and active service members.
America is the land of the free, because of the brave — because of service members, junior Johny Kobler said.
“I hope that you feel pride and joy this Veterans Day,” he said. “I hope you feel it in the way you defended this nation. I hope you feel it in the freedoms that you and your friends and family get to enjoy because of your sacrifice. In the way you see children running around and not having to worry about enemy nations threatening to bomb us at any minute. In the way that we can all go to sleep at night not having to worry about enemies taking a hostage in the middle of the night.”
He won’t forget the service and sacrifice, Johny said.
“I will not forget you this Veterans Day. I will not forget you next Veterans Day. I won’t forget you in 50 Veterans Days,” he said. “I will remember you and your family this, next and every single Veterans Day.”