When Wayne McGowin served in the Army Reserve during the Vietnam era, service members didn’t get the recognition they do now.
Sharing war stories now helps children realize how fortunate they are and to be grateful, he said.
The Greenwood resident was one of more than 120 veterans at an annual gathering to honor military service for Veterans Day at Center Grove Middle School North.
Two lines of middle school students and military veterans snaked into the gym, where the students spoke into a microphone and introduced each service member Friday. Some of the veterans were parents, grandparents and teachers, and they represented all branches of the military, including the Coast Guard.
McGowin attended the event with his granddaughters, sixth-graders Ellie McGowin and Allie Williams. Gratitude for service members and what they do for our country is important for children to learn, he said.
“If they know the truth, they will have more gratitude in their heart,” he said.
The veterans ate breakfast with the students then participated in a ceremony that honored them. The students also sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the songs for each branch of the military such as “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” played in the orchestra and read tributes to veterans.
In an essay tribute on freedom and honoring military service members, eighth-grade student Emily Hoy credited war veterans, including her uncle, with giving her American rights, such as speaking her opinions publicly.
Her parents in China, who gave her up for adoption, also played a part in giving her freedom by giving her the rights of an American, rights protected by the military, including being able to choose to have more than one child. Those are not freedoms she would have had in China, Emily said. Her parents gave her up for adoption, possibly because it was against the law for them to have more than one child, she said.
“All of these people suffered for my personal freedom,” she said.
Social studies teacher Rick Miller credited veterans as important to protecting America from the poverty of much of the rest of the world.
Three billion people in the world survive on incomes of less than $2.50 per day, and about one-third of the world is dying of starvation, Miller said. The everyday people around us who serve in the military are part of why Americans are blessed, he said.
Guest speakers Steve Hardwick and Duane Hodgin told stories of Indiana residents who suffered in war. The service members fought in hand-to-hand combat, lost limbs or died and some still have shrapnel embedded in their bodies, Hardwick and Hodgin said during their presentation.
Hardwick, a fifth-grade teacher in Indianapolis, and Hodgin, of Richmond, told stories from their book “WW II: Duty, Honor, Country,” which was published this year.
In 10 to 12 years, all World War II veterans likely will have died, so it’s important now to retell their stories and thank them, Hardwick said.
“We have victory every day in America because of these veterans,” he said.