Lifestyle

South Colby kids learn the meaning of Veterans Day

South Colby Elementary School held its annual Veterans Day celebration on Tuesday afternoon, treating students to an extended program that centered around patriotism and honored several veterans that were in the audience.

While the guest of honor was Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) principal Brian Pickard said the gathering “is not a political thing, It is our place to give kids an awareness of what Veterans’ Day means, regardless of the issues.”

About 480 kids attend the school. The only ones not in attendance were the morning kindergarten classes. The afternoon kindergarten class sat by the door, where they were expected to make their exit prior to the end of the ceremony. “It's too much for the little ones,” Pickard said, “But all the kids really get a lot out of this.”

The rest of the kids filled the gym, and enthusiastically responded to the fast-paced program. Along with the compulsory Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem, several musical and thematic presentations carried the spirit in less conventional ways.

“This is a day that we all look forward to,” Pickard said at the beginning of the program. “We are really glad that everyone is here, and be part of the special afternoon of tribute.”

The kids filled the center of the gymnasium while the guests, many of them veterans, stood around the edge of the room. Pickard said this was symbolic of “how veterans surround us and protect us.”

“We are here to make sure that all of you have a good life,” said ROTC commander Capt. Ed Petrick. “I’m sure that I speak for all the veterans in the room that we are very glad to be here and we are honored by Veterans Day and by your ceremony here today.”

Kilmer began his address by talking about his 99-year-old grandmother, relating a discussion that he had with her as he prepared for the speech. When he asked her how he should describe what Veterans Day means she paused, and said “Everything. Veterans Day means everything.”

Kilmer said she grew up in Holland and was a refugee, much like the well-known Ann Frank. She hid from the German soldiers and was liberated by the Americans, which provided the basis of her respect and affection for Veterans.

Kilmer quoted his grandmother as saying “We were starving. All we had to eat was tulip bulbs and sugar beets. We made soup out of grass. Then all of a sudden we had everything. On May 5 1945, the Americans beat back the Nazis and restored freedom to our country. The American soldiers brought us food and we were so hungry, it was he best meal that I ever had. But they brought us more than food. They brought us our lives back.”

Kilmer reminded the kids of their proximity to Retsil Veterans Home, and extracted a promise for them to each write two postcards to veterans during their day off from school.

“If it wasn’t for the brave American soldiers who defeated the Germans my grandma and grandpa would have not have made it through the war and I would have never been born,” Kilmer said. “It means a lot more than a day off from work or a day off from school. I hope that on your day off tomorrow you will call the veterans that you know and the family members that are veterans and say thank you to them,” Kilmer said.

“Because of them, my two little girls and all of you will grow up in a world of freedoms that we would not have had if not for our veterans.”

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