Veteran Heart

The fifth-grade classes at Tavan Elementary send this photo to each veteran they write to.

 

What started as an annual Veterans Day breakfast has transformed into a family-friendly parade, an idea brought to life by the students at Christ Lutheran School. 

The Veterans Day breakfast was introduced in 2015 and was held each year until November 2020, when CLS had to pivot away from the traditional event – an idea that Outreach Director Megan Gotshall said ended up very beneficial. Gotshall oversees the event and helps students during the planning process and festivities. 

“Instead of only some students getting to meet veterans and learn about their experiences at breakfast, now all of our students can participate in the festivities because the parade is during the school day,” Gotshall said. 

The kindergarten through eighth-grade classes decorate the campus, create posters to hold up and invite veterans to drive through. 

“It’s a wonderful way for us to celebrate and thank our veterans for their service as a whole school community,” she said. 

Gotshall and fellow staff were impressed when a group of students suggested a drive-through parade as an alternative to the breakfast. At the time, it was a safe and socially distanced option for Veterans Day festivities, and the tradition continues two years later with the parade planned for Friday, November 11.

Veterans and their loved ones are encouraged to get involved and decorate their cars for the special occasion, which Gotshall said is an important reminder for students that freedom isn’t free.

“It is too easy to take this life for granted. Being together as a community to thank our veterans reminds us of the blessing that it is to live in the United States of America,” Gotshall explained. “We want to be citizens who help make this country a better place like our veterans did.”

Seeing veterans’ reactions as they drive through the parade, some with smiles and some with tears in their eyes, shows the students that their efforts were worth it. Some veterans even write what branch/war they served in on their cars, a touching tribute to their patriotism.

The school community hopes to see a strong turnout of veterans at this year’s parade so they can thank them for their courageous service and sacrifice. While Gotshall coordinates the parade logistics, she said the students deserve the credit for such a grand celebration.

“It truly is the students who make it special and meaningful with their enthusiasm and cheering,” Gotshall said. “The parade means a lot to all of us. It’s a time for us to be together as a community and remember the service and sacrifice of our veterans.”

CLS isn’t the only Arcadia area school to do something special for Veterans Day. At Tavan, a project that started with Shelly Rose’s fifth-grade class over 10 years ago has grown to include all third, fourth, and fifth graders. 

With the help of their families, students are asked to gather mailing or email addresses for all the veterans they know, from relatives to family, friends and neighbors. This collective effort produces a long list of veterans to recognize each November.

“We take a group photo and write thank you notes to send to veterans along with the picture,” Rose explained. “It has been well received by veterans who note that nobody ever really thanked them.”

Over the years, Tavan students have expressed their gratitude to veterans across Arizona, the country, and even overseas, with many writing back to share their appreciation for such acknowledgment.

The school is committed to thanking veterans for their service and teaching future generations about veteran sacrifices throughout history.

Hopi Elementary School is also coming together with a Veterans Day assembly planned for Thursday, November 10. There will be a student council presentation and a patriotic performance from the fourth and fifth grade choir, who have been hard at work practicing their songs.

“Traditionally, this has also been a red, white, and blue day for students. This is my first year at Hopi, so I’m looking forward to seeing us come together as a community to learn, honor and observe military veterans,” Principal Anne Plenkovich said. 

“It is critical that we remember all the men and women who have courageously sacrificed for us to have the freedom and peace we experience today.”