I read Marlene Willard's Nov. 11 letter encouraging parents to keep children from attending Columbia County schools on Veterans Day ("Parents should 'express outrage,' keep kids home Veterans Day"). I shared the same sentiment when I first moved here in 2001. Since then, I have had a change of heart and I would like to explain why.
As a veteran, I was also offended that the Columbia County school system seemingly failed to properly honor the service of veterans by keeping schools open on Veterans Day, so I contacted Mildred Blackburn, a school board member, in 2003. She explained that if the kids had a day off, it would be just another day off from school; nothing special. Columbia County school administrators felt it was more important to teach kids about the true meaning of Veterans Day by creating curriculums that focused on the service and sacrifice of veterans.
I was invited to attend the Riverside Middle School Veterans Day observance that year. It was one of the most patriotic events I have attended. Each classroom was decorated with a patriotic theme. Every hallway bulletin board was neatly filled with student essays about what Veterans Day meant to them. There were displays of military artifacts from military family members (past and present) of Riverside Middle School students.
I thought it was ingenious because they weren't just inanimate objects. Students could personally relate to each item since they were connected to their or their friends' families.
The official ceremony was held in the gym. Each speaker made a moving tribute to those who served and were currently serving. The keynote speaker was an active-duty Army officer who recently returned from Iraq.
I will never forget the wonderful experience I had. That day, I became a strong supporter of the Columbia County schools' policy to keep schools open on Veterans Day.
I would encourage other school systems to follow Columbia County's lead. I also encourage the citizens of Columbia County to attend one of these wonderful Veterans Day events at Columbia County schools. You won't be disappointed.
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