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A newborn respect for veterans

Nearly two decades ago, there was a mandate from the state of Minnesota that public schools offer Veterans Day programs. The hope was to renew a passion for the history of our country’s military and to bring the honor and respect to our veterans that they deserve.
Government mandates, particularly in our schools, are seldom welcome. But this one seems to be working.
Friday morning, Glencoe-Silver Lake Schools hosted Veterans Day programs at both Lakeside Elementary in Silver Lake and at the Lincoln/High School campus in Glencoe. At both, one had to be more than impressed with the respect and honor shown by GSL’s students.
At Lakeside, along with a great talk by Silver Lake native Chris Yurek, a sergeant first class in the Minnesota Army National Guard, audience members who happened to be veterans were asked to introduce themselves, talk a little about their military service and talk about their ties to the students. Many of those veterans had children or grandchildren who are students at Lakeside.
After each veteran said a few words, Principal Joy Freitag encouraged the children to honor with the a round of applause.
The children took it a step further — they spontaneously rose to their feet as a student body and offered a standing ovation. Mind you, these are third- through sixth-grade students. One would think they would be too young to have a true appreciation for veterans and the sacrifice they have offered as members of our military forces. But these children had a firm grasp on the concept that these folks deserved honor and appreciation.
Many of the veterans who introduced themselves served during the Vietnam War. Seeing that standing ovation had to do their hearts a great deal of good. Those of us who lived through the Vietnam well remember the detestable reception these service members received upon returning from months, even years, in the hell that was Vietnam. They were at best ignored; at worst spit on and served as scapegoats for ill-advised public policy which they had no input on. They simply served their country, as have millions of Americans before them.
Later Friday morning, at the program at the high school, students listened respectfully and stood quietly as the color guard passed. The high school band and choir gave their best in some beautifully moving numbers.
And it wasn’t just the schools who honored our veterans Friday, Saturday and even into the new week.
We could recount the numerous ways that appreciation of veterans was extended in our community but, happily, there is a letter to the editor from a veteran who does a better job of it. Please take time to read it.
All in all, we’re doing a great job of appreciating our veterans. As the number of veterans swells, we need to keep it up.
They all were prepared to offer the ultimate sacrifice; the least we can do is shake a hand, buy a meal and continue to honor them on their special day.