Area students and teachers were decked out in red, white and blue Tuesday as schools commemorated the Veterans Day holiday.
Veterans and their families were invited to local schools throughout the day for special events in their honor. World Language Academy kicked off the day’s events with a color guard presentation and flyover.
“Of course, every day you should pick up the phone and say ‘Thank you for your service,’” said Maj. Gen. Jim Butterworth, adjutant general of Georgia, to middle school students at World Language Academy. “But make it a point today to pick up the phone or send an email or a text message, whatever the case may be, and tell your cousins, uncles, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, ‘Thank you for your service to our country.’”
Prior to the events Tuesday, West Hall came together Monday night for a special Veterans Day program featuring U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.
“You live in a wonderful country,” Collins said to the students of West Hall High, West Hall Middle, Flowery Branch Elementary and Oakwood Elementary schools. “You’ve been given great gifts, and those who have stood to defend those gifts deserve our honor and deserve our respect.”
Many schools, including Sardis Enrichment School and Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy, had patriotic musical programs and Walks of Honor through the halls Tuesday.
At C.W. Davis Middle School, some sixth-grade students read letters they wrote for troops overseas this Thanksgiving, as well as letters they’ve written for family members who have served.
“Because of your service to our country, I am free to pray and read the Bible,” read student Sarah Steed from her letter. “I am praying for you this Thanksgiving that you will be safe and able to return home soon.”
Sardis Enrichment School students wrote letters and prepared gifts for the 42 veterans who attended their second annual program Tuesday morning. Principal Neil Yarrington said nearly every veteran in attendance was in some way connected to a teacher or student at the school.
“It was really neat this morning, you could hear the students in the hallway talking and saying, ‘The veterans are actually here, in our building!’” Yarrington said. “It was neat to see how much they were looking forward to it.”
The school presented letters written by students for veterans, and offered breakfast and a time for socializing among each other. They also had a walk of honor and an address from former student, Lt. Col. Kevin Jarrard.
“Sometimes we forget how often ... we’ve had to fight for this freedom that is ours,” said Sgt. Harvey Rooks, guest speaker at C.W. Davis. “It is so thrilling to see these young people today, the vibrant young people in this room, make these speeches and to see this program coming forward.
“It is just absolutely moving to see the patriotism that is shown here in this room today.”
Riverbend Elementary School held a veterans assembly, inviting more than 30 men and women related to students at the school. Chestatee Academy and Chestatee High School held a luncheon for students and veterans in their families.
Chestatee Academy Principal David Robles, a Navy veteran, said the luncheon was an opportunity for veterans to not only be celebrated by the school, but to share time with each other.
Veterans from the various branches of the armed forces can have very different experiences serving their country, Robles said. But they all made the same decision to sacrifice for their country.
“The one thing we have in common is we all stood somewhere and took an oath,” Robles said. “We represent all the different branches of service, but that’s one thing we all have in common. I appreciate that the young ones here get to hear that. ... The one thing that’s important is we show the next generation it’s important to serve.”
Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield spoke at the Wauka Mountain program, thanking the veterans for their service, which Schofield said is too often taken for granted today.
“We probably didn’t think about this, but last night as we all slept in our beds, and last night while we had a warm supper, men and women in our armed services were all over this world making sure we were safe,” Schofield said.
But perhaps the most poignant message came from Butterworth, when speaking to middle school students at World Language Academy.
“At some point, your generation will have to perpetuate freedom,” Butterworth said. “There was an expectation by the Founding Fathers as they put those ideas ... that each generation would step up and would ensure freedom, not just inside the United States of America but around the world.
“At some point, it will be your turn to step up. It will be your turn to step in and let yourself serve, serve for your country.”
Carly Sharec contributed to this report.