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Schools stress gratitude, respect, appreciation for veterans
Gainesville State, NGCSU participated in National Roll Call
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View a slideshow of the day's events

The character word at Spout Springs School of Enrichment this month is "gratitude."

It's a word administrators wanted students to especially remember on Veterans Day.

"We find it important to teach kids appreciation and gratitude about the armed services," said Laura Maxwell, a first-grade teacher at Spout Springs.

"Most of our students haven't experienced our country not at war. It's important for them to understand the freedoms they enjoy shouldn't be taken for granted."

Students at the school lined the hallways Friday morning, holding flags, drawings and letters and sporting plenty of red, white and blue. They cheered and applauded, high-fived, hugged and saluted military servicemen and women as they paraded the halls during the school's veterans walk.

"I hope the students realize that our men and women who have served are our friends and family members and teachers," said Gail Jones, a kindergarten paraprofessional at Spout Springs.

Jones, a U.S. Army veteran who served with the military police from 1985 to 1987, led the walk.

Afterward, select students went outside to watch members of the East Hall High School Navy JROTC conduct a flag dedication ceremony. A new American flag, flown over the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 7, was dedicated to Spout Springs to be flown at the school.

"Hall County and Gainesville take this holiday very seriously. We're glad to be a part of it in our small way," Spout Springs Principal Steve McDaniel said. "I was really surprised at how many students we do have with military families. Most don't ever talk about it."

One of those students is fourth-grader Connor Gillespie, 10, whose father Bob served in the Army from 1989 to 1992.

"You feel more protected because they went through all the things needed to protect your country," Gillespie said of his father. "It feels good to have a parent that can do anything to protect you."

Second-grader Hallie Martin, 7, is the daughter of a Marine.

"I always feel safe with him," she said. "I know if someone tried to take me away he'll protect me. Kids should know that the Marines and the Army and the military are very good because they help you when you need them."

Riverbend Elementary students participated in a Veterans Day assembly that featured skits and music to honor the school's visiting veterans.

"When I hear those kids singing those patriotic
songs, it makes me emotional," Principal Debra Smith said. "And in the past when we've done this, some of the veterans have gotten emotional. They say it feels good that kids in school understand patriotism."

In fact, students across the region in many schools had special plans on Friday.

Post-secondary students also commemorated the day with events, but for a slightly different reason.

"With the post-9/11 years, we have more veterans coming to college campuses," said Alicia Caudill, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Gainesville State College. "We have just under 200 who are receiving GI benefits.

Those may be veterans or they may be veterans dependents."

Both Gainesville State and North Georgia College & State University participated in the National Roll Call, reading the names of the more than 6,200 casualties of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The roll call began at 7:40 a.m. and ended with a national moment of silence at 2 p.m.

Gainesville State also had flags available for students to place in honor of a soldier or veteran and a display of military memorabilia from students, faculty and alumni who served.

Smith said it's important to have events commemorating Veterans Day because it's not stressed enough that freedom is not free.

"We're growing up in a nation where we don't always appreciate the things that are done for us," Smith said. "We need to be thankful for what they've done for us and what they continue to do for us. We're going to have to raise a generation that knows they have to step up and keep this going."


Regional events