Monday is Veterans Day, a day when we pay homage to United States veterans whether living or deceased who have served their country. Traditionally, the School of the Osage has rolled out the red carpet for veterans, their families and the community with several events and activities. And that continues this year as programs are planned at Mills Elementary, the Middle School and the High School.
The Middle School, which educates students in grades 6-8, has taken a slightly different approach to Veterans Day by not only saluting veterans but also involving the students in the day's activities.
Cindy Spencer, the Veterans Day coordinator and Middle School reading workshop teacher, calls the assembly "student-centered" and says most of the students are involved whether as escorts or as active participants.
"The issue is to educate the students and help them understand the importance of our veterans, and the role they played in our history," she explained.
Spencer, Micah Becker (7-8 grades writing workshop teacher), Principal Tony Slack and other teachers on the committee at the Middle School have championed teaching the students respect and compassion for others through interactive programs such as Veterans Day.
In fact, the wall in the front office at the school is adorned with a plethora of good-character attributes: Responsibility, self-discipline, respect, integrity, teamwork, compassion, honesty, leadership, knowledge, self-esteem, perseverance and creativity.
Those words, Slack says, are the foundation for creating an interactive Veterans Day for the students.
Holidays come and go for students, and most look at them as days away from school. But students take an active role in the Veterans Day program, which helps them understand the day's importance.
"We want our students to understand the sacrifices others have made to allow them to have the freedoms they enjoy," Slack said. "This is not just a regular assembly."
The Middle School program has been on-going for at least a dozen years, and each year new ideas emerge to make it better for both the Veterans and the students.
"This is a team effort, and everyone did a great job. Everyone stepped up," Slack explained.
One of the unique aspects of the program is how veterans living and deceased are memorialized each year. Students, faculty and community members are invited to submit the name of a veteran who has passed away and some background on him or her. Then, a flag will be displayed in front of the Middle School on Veterans Day to represent that deceased veteran.
Spencer said the school used to do the same with a memorial balloon release, but the skyrocketing cost of helium made the balloon memorials prohibitive.
The names and information of all of the veterans whose names have been submitted over the years (estimated at 450) are kept in a special booklet compiled by Spencer. Each year, those names are read aloud during the school's morning announcements throughout the week preceding Veterans Day. The booklets are handed out at the assembly.
Page 2 of 3 - The National Junior Honor Society is also an active partner in Veterans Day. The students visit classrooms and explain the purpose of Veterans Day, encourage the students to be respectful of not only the event but also the special guests and to dress appropriately for the day.
Micah Becker's eighth grade reading workshop students participate in a special essay contest for Veterans Day. They research a particular war or interview a living veteran and then write five paragraphs based on their research, focusing on daily activities of a solider, what their feelings were and how their service impacted their lives.
The top three will be announced at the Nov. 11 assembly.
Coffee and donuts will be available to veterans and their guests starting at 7:30 a.m. in the Middle School Commons.
The program will begin at 8:20 a.m. and veterans are encouraged to arrive by 8 a.m. to be escorted to their seats. The school is handicapped assessable.
School officials plan a student-centered assembly that will begin with the Osage High School Civil Air Patrol posting the colors. Claire Huck, Middle School choir director, will sing the national anthem.
"All of the clubs here at the Middle School are involved in the program to some degree," Spencer said.
Students extend special invitations to family members and friends who are veterans. They take ownership in the program.
"I like to say they have a dog in the fight," Spencer smiled.
Other highlights include:
•Middle School choir will sing a medley of songs entitled "We the People."
•Students will provide a presentation on the history of Veterans Day
•Eighth grade essay winners will be announced based on a theme of "A Soldier's Experience." Students interviewed veterans as part of the essay project.
•Middle School teachers who are veterans will fold the flag and explain the significance of each step.
•Eighth graders Zidan Kehr and Seigrid Massie will read the poem, "In Flanders Field" and explain the significance of the poppy.
•Veteran Cody Means, whose mother is a Middle School English teacher, will explain the significance of the POW/MIA empty chair that will be on display.
•Guest speaker Ray Bassett, a representative of the Central Missouri Honor Flights and a World War II and Korean War veteran, will be the guest speaker.
A special breakfast and assembly will be held for veterans, who will first have breakfast with students at 8:30 a.m. Veterans will then go to various classrooms about 9 a.m. to read to students, visit with them and answer questions.
Page 3 of 3 - An assembly will be held about 9:30 a.m. at which time students will sing a variety of patriotic songs and veterans will be introduced.
School of the Osage High School will once again host a community Veterans Day program starting at 10 a.m. in the gymnasium.
Spencer said veterans, their families and the community can attend the Middle School program and then cross Highway 42 to attend the high school event.
The OHS band and choir will perform several patriotic songs and veterans of the various branches of service will be recognized.
A guest speaker is also scheduled.