Taking extra care to color inside the lines and carefully trimming the edges of their red, white and blue stars, second-graders at Piedmont Valley Elementary worked hard to ensure this project was extra special.

They carefully printed their letters in their very best writing, adding patriotic colors and artwork to their sentiments for the service men and women who have served our country. Carefully spacing the red stripes and coloring white stars on the blue rectangle, they created perfect flags to hang next to the star wreaths that were headed for the veterans many of them had only learned about days earlier.

The 8- and 9-year-olds learned this past week that November 11 is a day celebrated across the United States to honor all those who have served our country as a member of the Armed Forces, especially those who have fought during a war.

Some gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, giving their lives for freedom.

The students wrote their letters to veterans at Fort Meade, and family members who are veterans or are currently serving in the military.

"This is our way of showing support and saying thank you to our veterans," said second-grade teacher Katie Harrington.

Several students have parents or relatives who serve in the military or have served, many of them deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.

Kailey Holt knows of veterans' sacrifices firsthand, as the daughter of Air Force veteran Ben Holt who recently returned from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan.

"It's their duty to serve our country," she said. "They protect us."

Alyssa Yeary's father, Jason, is an Army veteran. She took special care writing her letter and working on the other projects, as her way of thanking her father for his service.

Jacob Bacorn's father, Joe Bacorn is currently deployed to Afghanistan.

"I kind of miss him," said Jacob, who added that he and his family visit with his father via Skype as often as possible.

Jacob knows that it's his father's duty as a member of the Armed Forces to serve his country.

Second-grader Michael Stetser is from a military family. His mother, Melisa Brainerd was in the military before he was born, and his father, Keith Stetser served in the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base until an injury forced him to retire.

"They both worked on B1s," said Michael.

Michael's aunt recently graduated from Marine basic training and is prepared to serve her country.

Layten Shelton's father, Russell "Rusty" Satterfield returned in September from a 10-month deployment to Afghanistan.

After a brief visit home, his father traveled to Texas where he is teaching other soldiers how to fix engines, said Layten. Although his father missed his Oct. 4 birthday, Layten said his father should be home in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family.

Ian Grinager's father, Aaron Grinager is an Army veteran.

"They help fight for our country so we can have freedom," said Ian, whose grandfather, Dale, served in the Air Force.

Elliot Hendrix wrote his letter to his aunt, Lori, who is a member of the National Guard.

"Thank you for serving in the USA and thank you for your bravery and courage," he wrote.

In addition to writing letters to the veterans and making the wreaths and flags, the second-grade classes of Katie Harrington, Kassi Wilson and Carol Waider learned about veterans all week.

Their lessons included poems, a fact sheet about how and why Veterans Day was started, and an exercise describing veterans with different adjectives.

The students used words such as brave, smart, kind, hero, faithfulness and responsible to describe a veteran.

Their Veterans Day activities also included coloring pages, and making their own dog tag with a self portrait.

For the last several years, the kindergarten and first grade teachers at Piedmont Valley Elementary have sent specials stars home with their students. Families are asked to put the name of a veteran on the star and return it to school. They are not limited to only one star.

This year the stars will be displayed in the kindergarten/ first grade hallway, according to Piedmont Valley Elementary Principal Ethan Dschaak, who has planned Veterans Day activities at the school the past few years.

"Our students are learning about having American pride, what a veteran is, and how to show respect for our country," said Dschaak.

Piedmont Valley Elemetary students will attend a Veterans Day assembly on Monday that will include musical selections from students and a powerpoint presentation, according to Dschaak.

The event will feature guest speaker Major Jeremy Bryan who is the training officer in charge for Chadron State University. Upon graduation from Infantry Officer Basic Course Major Bryan attended the United States Army Airborne Course and the Ranger Course. He served his country in Afghanistan as a member of the HHC 109th South Dakota Army National Guard in 2008.


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