In the Freeman School District, students and staff go the extra mile to honor veterans in their community.
Two or three weeks before Veterans Day, the leadership students at the middle school and high school begin planning for the Friday before Veterans Day when they open the high school for a breakfast and special assembly.
They put party favors together, created centerpieces for the tables, decorated the cafeteria and assigned each other jobs to do during the breakfast such as serving coffee and juice or greeting guests.
The student newspaper, The Bagpiper, dedicated an entire issue to stories about veterans from the school, histories of the branches of the military and stories about Honor Flight.
Ryan Broussard, an eighth-grader, said the preparations for the event affected him in many ways.
“It really makes you appreciate all they have done for you,” he said.
This tradition has been around for the better part of a decade. Jessica McWilliams, the leadership teacher at the middle school, said students made 100 goodie bags for the veterans and they had all been distributed.
Mike Stewart spent eight years in the Navy and 20 years in the Air Force. He said this was his first visit to Freeman for Veterans Day.
“I (usually) go to East Farms every year,” said Stewart, who has grandchildren at both schools. He said he enjoyed getting to know the other veterans at the breakfast, pointing out a World War II veteran next to him and a Gulf War veteran across the table from him.
A veteran of the Vietnam War, he said when he returned after his service, Vietnam veterans were often protested and scorned, but that is changing.
“Today, we’re treating veterans like they did after the second World War, with honor and respect,” he said.
Lloyd Seehorn served with the 85th Naval Construction Battalion during World War II. He talked about his time in a supply depot in New Hebrides and on Wake Island just after the fighting had ended.
Seehorn has been around Freeman for many years. He had an uncle who served on the school board and his daughter and grandchildren all graduated from the high school.
“It’s neat to come back and see the school we helped build,” he said.
“This is a huge community event for us,” said Superintendent Randy Russell. “We’re honored that so many veterans came.”
After breakfast, the veterans moved into the school gymnasium and were greeted by students from the elementary, middle and high schools.
Former teacher, coach and principal Kent Smith, who also served in the Army, greeted the crowd and invited the veterans to stand.
“I’m honored and proud to be standing up here alongside of you,” he told them.
He explained that America wasn’t “just here for us.”
“It was paid for with blood, with commitment, with courage, dedication and a great deal of love,” he said.
Elementary students read letters thanking veterans for their service and for fighting for our freedom. The middle school and high school chorus combined to sing “Sunrise over America,” and a trio of high school girls sang, “In Flanders Fields.”
The band struck up a Sousa march, “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and the elementary students sang several patriotic songs.
There was a video featuring members of the community and school talking about their service or their family members’ service.
For Broussard, his favorite part of the day was getting to know real-life heroes.
“The personalities of the veterans,” he said, “I’d like to know all of them.”