PIQUA — The students and staff at Springcreek Primary School made their gratitude known to veterans during a special ceremony held Friday afternoon that included numerous cheers and flags in addition to a number of patriotic songs.
“It is an honor for our building to host you,” Assistant Principal Ross Loudenback said.
Springcreek hosted approximately 50 local veterans, leading them on a parade through the first-grade wing as students lined the walls, waved flags, and cheered for the veterans as they walked down to the common area.
After leading the veterans through numerous cheering children, they were guided to a sitting area on the stage in the common area. Springcreek students sat down in front of the veterans before music teacher Kristin Gephart led the students in performing a couple of patriotic songs for the veterans and saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
“This is amazing,” Piqua City Schools Superintendent Dwayne Thompson said.
Thompson emphasized the value of veterans and what the students have to learn from veterans, saying, “You cannot replace that.”
Thompson added that he was surprised to learn how many students had veterans in their families, saying, “They’re so proud of them.”
Thompson also commented on the breakfast held at Piqua Central Intermediate School earlier Friday for veterans. He noted that, at the breakfast, one of the veterans told him, “This was worth living another day for.”
“I think they really outdid themselves,” Thompson said about the all of the schools and their efforts to honor veterans, adding that he was proud of them.
Principal Connie Strehle explained the importance of Veterans Day to students, telling them that the holiday was originally called Armistice Day. Strehle explained the significance of the day, Nov. 11, was that it was during the 11th month, on the 11th day, at the 11th hour that a peace treaty was signed for WWI.
“World War I was supposed to be the end of all wars, but we know that isn’t the truth, because we’ve had World War II, we’ve had the Korean War, we’ve had the Vietnam War, we’ve had Desert Storm, and numerous others,” Strehle said. “So what we are here today to do is honor all of these gentlemen on the stage who have given up their time away from their families to give us our freedom.
“Your freedoms is what you get to do everyday,” Strehle continued. “It’s your freedom of speech, your freedom to come to school. That is what we have to remember.”
Strehle talked about the veterans in her own family, including her grandfather, who served in the Army in WWI; her father, who served in the Navy in WWII; and her brother, who has been serving in the Navy for 26 years.
“I take it (Veterans Day) very seriously,” Strehle said. “It is because of all these gentlemen on this stage that we have these freedoms.”
The school then asked the veterans to take a moment to introduce themselves and when they served in their branch of the military. Many branches of the military were represented, and many of the veterans had also served at a variety of times, some as far back as WWII and others who are active service members.
“I’m overwhelmed by you kids,” said veteran Mark Thompson, who served in the Army between 1989-1995. “It’s just fantastic.”
Another veteran commented that this program at Springcreek was “the most outstanding welcome” he had received, and another said that the Pledge of Allegiance that the students made was the best pledge he had ever seen.
“I love my country as the rest of these gentlemen up here do,” veteran Jim Palmer, who is also an administrative assistant at Springcreek, said. Palmer served in the Army from 1972-1975, and his granddaughter, Sophia, was among the students at the ceremony. “Thank you all for being here, what an honor,” he said.
“Thank you for having me,” said veteran David Lavey, who was drafted and served in the Army between 1969-1971. “It’s an honor being with these veterans.”
A handful of students then took turns reading letters to the veterans.
“Thank you for protecting everyone in the U.S.A.,” student Kamrie Mendenhall said. “Thank you for protecting our freedom.”
The students continued their thanks, in letters from students Samantha Westfall, Serafine Eller, and Maya Oduro.
“Thank you for your service. Thank you for making the U.S.A. safe,” Oduro said. “Thank you for all the hard work you do.”
Flags were also donated to Springcreek’s special Veterans Day program by real estate agent Kathy Henne.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336