Eastside Elementary students have been learning lessons in reverence. Those lessons reached their peak during a Veterans Day program Friday afternoon.
“I want our students to understand what it means to be a veteran,” Val Scott, principal at Eastside Elementary School, said after the program.
“They haven’t been a part of very many wars,” she added, “and they don’t understand what it is, what it means, what does our freedom mean.”
Scott began the program by explaining to students what being a veteran means and what they do for the United States.
Lt. Col. Shay Bonnell addressed the students about how they could best thank the veterans.
Bonnell’s suggestions to students were twofold: Do well in school and be kind to others.
He said many veterans weren’t able to finish their schooling — some had to wait until they returned from war to do so.
“I’ve never met a veteran who said, ‘I don’t care about my family’s education,” he said.
“Life isn’t always easy, but it’s easier if you’re smart... These guys you see before you today want you to continue to be smart, to grow smart.”
Roughly 32 veterans sat in front of the students, taking everything in, including George Mock, a 91-year-old Korean War veteran and retired shop teacher from Anderson Community Schools.
Mock, who served in the United States Air Force, and others were honored by students with salutes and songs.
At one point, a group of kindergarteners stood up and performed “God Bless America.”
The students performed hand motions along with the lyrics while belting out the Irving Berlin classic.
The tribute moved Mock, his wife, Lurita, and their daughter, Karen Griner, a literacy instructional coach for Anderson Community Schools.
“These Veterans Day programs really showcase the pride that we have in America and the freedoms that we’re given,” Griner said after the program.
“Listening to those kindergarteners sing, ‘God Bless America,’ that’s just touching to know that our young people are learning about the country and the people who have served to give us the freedoms, the things that we have today.”
Griner got to see some of her former students who are in the JROTC at Anderson High School, which she said made her proud.
Griner said she was also proud of her father both as a veteran and a person. Loyalty, she said, is his best quality.
“He’s been very loyal to his country,” she said. “H’s been loyal to his family.”
Her mother, Mock’s wife of 54 years, echoed Griner’s sentiments.
“He’s kind and caring, understanding and loyal,” she said.
“You know why she married me?” Mock asked with a smile.
“He’s an aviator and I loved his airplane,” Lurita said with a smile.
This article appeared in The Herald Bulletin.