Jackie Schaffer, music specialist at J.W. Smith Elementary School, had tears in her eyes after the Veterans Day program at her school Wednesday morning.
"The kids did such a wonderful job," Schaffer said.
In the 28 years Schaffer has worked at J.W. Smith, no Veterans Day celebration had ever been organized, she said. So last year, she asked school Principal Patricia Welte if a program could be planned for this November.
Welte agreed and worked with Schaffer, along with staff and teachers, to organize a one-hour program. Students were asked to invite their friends, family members or relatives who have served in the military to attend.
Fourth- and fifth-graders in the choir at J.W. Smith started the Veterans Day program by singing "You're a Grand Old Flag," "This Land is Your Land" and "America the Beautiful."
The gymnasium fell silent as the Bemidji High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and Cub Scouts from Pack 56 presented the colors.
"It seemed like so many other schools had Veterans Day programs except our own school," Welte said. "This gave the children a way to talk to the veterans. Many of them know someone who is currently serving in the war."
An armed service medley was sung by the choir, which invited veterans who served in the Army, Marines, Coast Guard, Navy and the Air Force to stand as their branch's theme song played.
"We truly do honor Veterans Day by your presence here today," Beltrami County Commissioner Joe Vene said in his keynote address to the audience.
One-by-one, students introduced a family member or friend who had served in the military in front of the assembly.
"I haven't been to anything like this before. No one has ever spoken up for me like that. It made me very proud," said Vincent Flocken, whose grandchildren are J.W. Smith students, Llewellyn, 9, and Leola, 8, Grayhawk. Flocken served in the United States Navy in World War II and in the Korean War.
"It's so neat to see the students introducing the veterans. It really gives it a personal touch," said Superintendent Jim Hess, who attended the celebration along with Assistant Superintendent Bob Vaadeland.
Bemidji High School students Megan Rossman and Betsy Richards played "Taps" as the gymnasium again fell silent.
This is when Schaffer's eyes began to tear up, she said.
"I think the children learned a lot. Some of the children have never been exposed to this," Schaffer said. "Some had probably never heard those medleys. I'm just so grateful to have the veterans here."
Lincoln Elementary School also put on a Veterans Day program, where students invited family and friends who were honored for their service in the military.