We celebrated Veterans Day over the last week, and I love it when the community does special things to honor these men and women who have served in our armed forces.
For me, one ceremony was more emotional than I had expected. At Indian Ridge Elementary School in Centennial, my sons asked me all week to bring my dad to their special assembly. They asked more than once and were excited to show some pride in their grandpa.
On a funny side note, we have had to explain to my 7-year-old more than once that Papa is not old enough to have served in World War II. We explained instead that Papa was in Vietnam and served with honor.
During the short assembly, the school’s principal, Matt McDonald, said something I absolutely loved hearing to all the students between preschool and fifth grades. Mr. McDonald told the students that the assembly is not the only time to thank a veteran.
He told the students when they see a veteran wearing a hat or shirt in the community to say thank you then as well. He told them it’s important to tell these men and women that we appreciate their service anytime.
This is a great lesson to teach our youth. It teaches them that it’s not just about honoring people for one day, but instead as a matter of routine.
As for my dad — I have written regularly about him having a rough year and nearly dying twice. He is better now. Back on track but still not overly energetic and doesn’t get out a lot.
I asked him to go with me to the school. He was a bit confused at first as we sat among 200 kids in a noisy gymnasium.
As the assembly went on the choir performed a thank you song, all of the kids sang each of the songs in honor of each branch of the military, and every veteran attending the event was asked to stand up.
After the ceremony, all of the kids lined the elementary school hallways, and each veteran was asked to walk along the route. Every single student participated in clapping and saying thank you to every veteran.
As we were walking out, Mr. McDonald also shook my dad’s hand. Several of the teachers and staff who have come to know our family this year — and know what my dad has been through — took moments to hug him.
My dad quietly told me — “This made me cry.” My dad is Mr. Rough and Tough. Having him say he was brought to tears says a lot.
For me, having so many in those hallways shows support not just my dad but for our family, and is part of the reason I love community schools where parents, teachers, and students are a part of our family.
While I love what Douglas and Arapahoe counties did with the Operation Green Light program, and I love other ceremonies held throughout the community — this one at the school ,with young students truly showing appreciation, will now hold a place in my heart forever.
Thelma Grimes is the south metro editor for Colorado Community Media.