“One day, I get this letter from Uncle Sam saying I’m going to Korea. So… I went!”
The white-haired man wearing a blue cap with the words “Korea Veteran” pulls a large black and white photo from a well-worn manila envelope and shows it to his two great-granddaughters seated next to him at the school cafeteria table. The girls are students at East Side Elementary and they have invited him to a special breakfast honoring family members who are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
“This is my Navy boot camp photo and that’s me right there in the second row,” he says, pointing to a handsome, fresh-faced teenager in a sailor’s uniform and “dixie-cup” cap.
“Doesn’t look anything like me now. That was 65 years ago!”
The room was filled with vets of all ages and from all branches of the military, some in uniform, some in civilian clothes, and all enjoying a delicious breakfast of sausage biscuits and gravy, grits, hash browns, cereal, fruit and more provided by the school staff and volunteers.
“We celebrate your achievements, courage, and dedication. We thank you for the sacrifices you make or have made to protect and honor our country.”
Cub Scouts from Troop 744 served as the color guard and presented the American flag for the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem. This was followed by a patriotic musical performance by the all the kindergarten classes and a video presentation honoring the vets.
After the program, the attendees participated in a Pass and Review as the veterans, along with their families, gathered behind the flags which represented their branch of service and then proceeded to march through the school. Students lined the hallways cheering and waving American flags in a show of support and thankfulness for the service of each man and woman. The parade advanced through the school, through doors, and out into the parking lot where even more cheering students awaited. Pride and admiration was clearly visible on the faces of each of the students who walked alongside their own personal American hero; a hero they just call mom, dad, or grandpa.
The Veteran Appreciation program itself was the idea of former East Side cafeteria manager Dan Bonham (left) and was made possible by Kristin Cronk (current manager) and a committee of East Side teachers that handle the program schedule and communicating the event to the families. The East Side PTA and Foundation parent volunteers were also essential in assisting with the breakfast service.