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Students honor veterans, country at school gatherings
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Bob Long walks with his grandchildren Erin Murrath, 8, and Lauren Murrath, 11, during a veterans walk at DaVinci Academy on Wednesday. Long is a veteran of the Korean War. - photo by Erin O. Smith

The halls of DaVinci Academy ring with the sound of young voices chanting “USA! USA! USA!”

The Hall County and Gainesville school districts celebrated Veterans Day with programs, receptions and other events welcoming and honoring local veterans.

DaVinci and World Language Academy students donned red, white and blue and gathered in the DaVinci gym for a program that included patriotic singing, guest speakers and an aerial salute.

“We are here today to honor our heroes, to remember their achievements, their courage, their dedication, and to say thank you for their service,” said Brittney Bennett, World Language co-principal.

Flowery Branch High School’s Air Force JROTC cadets presented the colors, and Georgia first lady Sandra Deal addressed the students.

“You have great teachers and a wonderful opportunity to learn,” Deal said. “And so we are grateful that they gave their time and service for us.”

Deal challenged the students to not take the service and sacrifices of veterans for granted.

“You are too young, yet, to serve,” she said. “But you can show your appreciation to those who have served. You can say thank you to the veterans, whether they belong in your family or you see them on the street or in the store. That’s easy to do, isn’t it?

“But the best thing you can do is come to school every day and study, learn and behave so your friends can learn. Because you will one day be the ones who take their places in service of our country.”

Veteran and DaVinci teacher Gary Martin agreed.

“I once sat here as a student on Veterans Day when we had veterans come,” he said to the gathered students. “We had the freedom to be here and listen to them talk, just like you are doing here at school. So we need to say thank you to all the veterans out there.”

Martin spoke about why he first joined the Marines and later the Air Force Reserve.

“As I was walking in here, I was reminded of why I joined,” he said. “Everyone was chanting ‘USA! USA!’ and banging, clapping and singing ‘Yankee Doodle.’ The simple answer to why I joined the military is I did it for you. I joined because of all of you, because I once was you.”

The Flowery Branch schools were not the only ones in the area to honor veterans. Nearly every school in the area welcomed veterans to commemorate the holiday.

C.W. Davis Middle School, Chicopee Woods Elementary School and Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy also held assemblies and receptions. Wauka Mountain welcomed Jason Deal as guest speaker and Chicopee welcomed Riverside Military Academy’s Sgt. Joseph Sosa.

Students from Riverside and East Hall High School’s Navy JROTC program held a ceremony at Dogwood Forest of Gainesville Assisted Living and The Holbrook of Lake Lanier.

The ceremony welcomed more than 70 veterans, and East Hall cadets presented the colors while Riverside’s brass ensemble performed patriotic songs and bugle calls.

“It is an extreme honor to recognize these residents who have served our country,” said Bill Windsor, executive director of Dogwood Forest and The Holbrook, in a news release. “These wonderful men and women inspire us daily.”

Regional events