Woodland Heights Elementary School staff and students provided veterans with a special gift of love and support ahead of Veterans Day.

On Friday, many veterans gathered in the library of the elementary school. As multiple students passed by in the halls in their patriotic clothing, holding flags and symbols of hope, the veterans peered out the window at the young faces as they enjoyed a brief gathering with food.

As the veterans entered the gym and walked onto the stage, the loud boom of clapping from the children showing respect could be heard.

The faces of many family and staff members grew red as tears filled their eyes as they watched the veterans pass by in the hall.

The program featured poetry, talks from veterans and a performance of “America the Beautiful” by the fifth graders.

When starting the event, each veteran in attendance had their name called with their branch in the military.

Each veteran stood individually and received a round of applause from the crowd as smiles grew on their faces.

Veteran Jimmy Cox was one of the first to talk in the program. He said he recently separated from the military.

Cox expressed appreciation to the elementary school students and staff. Cox works at the school and said he appreciated they took him in when he was in a bit of a ‘runt.’

Cox described the school as a family.

The event not only honored all the veterans in attendance but also helped to inform the students of why the holiday is so important.

Speaker and veteran Todd Christian asked questions, testing the knowledge of the elementary school students.

He asked them to name the five different branches of the military back to him, letting them all speak at once.

The students continued eagerly answering his questions until he heard all five answers being shouted back at him.

He also asked what kind of people serve in the military.

After he answered he let them know that anyone “can” join but they have to make the choice to live a healthy life and get their high school diploma.

Christian continued to encourage the students.

“People who join the services do everything from carry guns and big heavy backpacks to taking care of people right? We have people who are nurses and doctors. There are tons of opportunities for people who join the services,” Christian said.

Leadership, communications, effective decision-making, listening and self-discipline are some of the things that Christian said he has gained from the service and still uses to this day.

But one of the things that he has gained is intangible and something many might not think of when joining the service — friendship.

Christian said his best friend today is someone he met through the service.

“Friends that become like family to you,” he said of people he met in the service.

Christian informed the students of the possibilities that the armed forces hold for them in the future, including the possibility of a paid college education.

Christian ended his talk by thanking Woodland Heights for having the veterans come for the program and requesting another round of applause for the veterans on the stage.

The attendees, without hesitation, clapped as loud and long as they could.

Principal of Woodland Heights Kristie Spenner ended the program in tears as she thanked the veterans for their service and told them how much they all mean to not only her but to everyone who filled the space in the elementary school.

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