As students at the Forest Park Middle School learned last week, Veterans’ Day is not just a day off school, but rather, a day of appreciation. The school held an assembly Friday morning honoring more than 60 veterans, 30 of which were present.
Principal Karen Bukowski has been with the school for five years and said it was time the students learned the holiday’s true meaning. She called the assembly “an occasion,” as it was the first held at the school for this purpose. Until last week, students were simply given the day off.
“Serving our country is a form of citizenship,” Bukowski said. “It conveys character, honesty. It’s a big part of who we are.”
Teachers worked closely with students throughout the week in preparation for the assembly. Some classes watched a documentary on the Vietnam War, while others read about the 13 colonies and the first and second world wars. Seventh-graders created colorful posters that expressed the importance of Veterans’ Day. The posters were judged in a contest by veterans and faculty members.
The assembly was held in the school gymnasium and was replete with patriotic decor. A slideshow with veterans’ names and military information was projected on one wall. Another wall was lined with posters depicting battle scenes and American flags. But perhaps the greatest display of patriotism was that of the uniformed veterans, ranging in military rank, age, and service, all gathered in one spot.
Seventh-grader Danny Barron, whose grandfather James Papa was among the veterans present, credits their service for the country’s welfare.
“If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to live the way we do today,” Barron said.
Fellow seventh-grader Abby Atwood said the most important part of Veterans’ Day is “thanking and honoring the soldiers who served for us.” She has a distant cousin currently serving in Iraq.
Barron’s grandfather served in the Korean War and worked as an engine mechanic on the Navy’s Blue Angel aircrafts.
“The assembly sets a good example for the kids. It’s a good thing to honor veterans,” Papa said. “They get forgotten too soon.”
The assembly featured guest speaker Nathan Taylor, a Gulf War veteran, who relayed some of his experiences in the service. He also answered students’ questions, and told them they should always listen to their teachers.
Bukowski plans to hold the assembly once every three years so that each middle school student can discover the importance of Veterans’ Day.
“We’ve been at war for a number of years now,” Bukowski said. “It’s time we made Veterans’ Day more meaningful.”