Bringing the message of service home to students

Students wore red, white and blue, and a group of parents, grandparents and siblings were honored as heroes.

More than a quarter of the students at East Side Elementary School in Edinburgh have a loved one who is a veteran, so the school puts a special emphasis into the annual Veterans Day program, organizers said.

“It’s important for students to realize what veterans do for us,” said Cole Zook, a fifth-grade teacher and organizer of the event.

The school is about four miles from Camp Atterbury, a military installation that has trained and deployed thousands of soldiers. Some of the students’ parents work at the post, Zook said.

In the annual Veterans Day program, the school took time to honor each branch of the armed services and recognize the sacrifices veterans make. Veterans of all ages, who fought in wars ranging from World War II to the Iraq War, were recognized.

“They go out and defend our freedoms, so we can be here today,” said Julie Perkins, a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps. Perkins was never in a war zone but sent other service members there.

She spoke to the students about why veterans, including their grandparents, parents and siblings, are heroes.

“They look like normal people, but they are heroes,” Perkins said.

Perkins worked as an air traffic controller in the Marine Corps, based in Morganton, North Carolina. She dispatched planes to Desert Storm, Iraq and Kuwait.

“It’s not an easy job, sending people over there knowing what they will be doing,” she said.

Past programs at the school have included veterans being honored and educators explaining what the day means to students, Zook said.

In his first year organizing the event, Zook enlisted the help of teachers and residents to see what a Veterans Day program should include. The result was an hourlong program that was based around every student being a part of the program in some way, he said.

An Edinburgh American Legion member played taps on a bugle. A leader of the local Legion women’s auxiliary read the poem “My Name is Old Glory” about the American flag. Legion members performed a flag folding ceremony, and each branch of the armed services was honored while the song from their branch was played.

Students also sang songs and read poems for the veterans.

Fifth-graders sang about freedom and honored their dads, uncles, grandpas and other loved ones in a poem thanking veterans.

In the armed services, everyone is recognized, no matter their race, religion or gender, Perkins said.

Being a veteran is like being in a family, she told students.

“That is one of the few things about the services, you are treated as family,” she said

Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2770.