A student participating in Seymour Sixth Grade Center’s annual Veterans Day program Friday morning at Gaiser Park took time after it ended to the read the names of servicemen and women etched in the war memorial.
Levi Hankins, a student at the school whose family has a long history of military service, said being reminded of the sacrifices veterans have made for the country is something people should do frequently.
“They’ve served our country in the cold, the heat, water, mountains and every condition possible,” the 12-year-old said. “I respect them all.”
Hankins and his classmates took part in the program honoring veterans from all wars at the park on the city’s south side. The event featured performances by the school’s choir and band, veteran guest speakers and comments from public officials.
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This year’s ceremony also featured a moment to honor fallen members of the military. That’s when student government President Sam Rockey hung a wreath in front of the memorial during a moment of silence.
Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman spoke briefly and reminded everyone the cold morning air was nothing compared to conditions military veterans have experienced while serving.
“When I looked at the weather this morning I thought about how it was going to be chilly, but then I thought about all the conditions our troops have gone through and all the things they had to suffer through,” he said. “All sacrificed something so we can enjoy the freedoms that we do.”
After the program each year, students are encouraged to greet veterans, thank them and learn a little about them.
Hankins said being able to thank veterans for those sacrifices was a humbling experience and thinks the event gives students an opportunity to express gratitude.
“It’s a cool event and it honors them and everyone around here,” he said. “It’s important to thank them because they served us to keep us safe and we need to remember the honor of serving our country.”
Hankins has had family serve in World War II, Korean War and the Vietnam War and as of now plans to continue the tradition.
“I hope to serve as a Marine or in the Army,” he said.
Jaymon Hunter, 12, attended the program and also took time afterward to examine the names at the monument. Hunter described the program as patriotic.
“I think the program was awesome and I felt love for America,” he said, adding his grandfather served in the Air Force. “Today I’d like to thank veterans for serving our country.”
Thanking veterans is an important thing to do, Hunter said, and the reason is simple.
“For all they’ve done for us, they really deserve this,” he said.
Rick Roberts, 68, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, said being thanked by students following the program was a humbling and an emotional experience.
“It will put a tear to your eye,” he said. “It’s special to be at this kind of event and I’ve been doing it for 17 years now.”
Karla Bohle, the school’s principal, said giving the opportunity for students to thank veterans after the program has a huge impact on the student’s understanding of sacrifices and history.
“It becomes real to them,” she said. “They can learn more from those individuals in a few minutes than they can from a history book, so I’m glad they have this opportunity.”
Bringing those sacrifices to life for students is something Roberts thinks is vital to young people’s understanding of the world.
“We need them to realize what people did for our freedom,” he said.
Danny Lakins, 69, who also served in the Army during the Vietnam War, agreed and said understanding history is important for youth.
“I think it’s important to understand our military history and the things the military has done for our country and the sacrifices made for our country,” he said.
Lakins said Veterans Day is a celebration and a time to let the public know America’s military and its members are willing to take a stand for what is right and make sacrifices for those values.
“I like to let the public know what we stood for,” he said.