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Duncombe Elementary students show veteran appreciation

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
First-graders at Duncombe Elementary School lead the Pledge of Allegience at Friday’s Veterans Day program.

At their age, most first-graders on a Friday are probably thinking about what’s for lunch or what they’ll be doing over the weekend. But on Friday, Duncombe Elementary students were in a decidedly different frame of mind.

The first grade pod showed respect for veterans and active members of the military by singing and showing a small but working knowledge of why Monday is a holiday — a concept that even some adults don’t quite always grasp.

And though it’s not the first year Duncombe has had the Veterans Day celebration with first grade, it may have been the first time many of the young students formally paid their respects to those who have served.

In a critical period of learning, the children displayed an aspect of education — instilling civic values in children — that often goes unrecognized in public education.

Sonshine Singers Music Ministry made an appearance, leading the event by singing the anthem for each branch of the military for the children. The real joy for the adult singers seemed to be watching the children, assembled in various outfits of red, white and blue, scramble to raise their hands and shout out the answer.

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
The Sonshine Singers Music Ministry led Friday’s Veterans Day program at Duncombe Elementary School with anthems from each branch of the military. After each song, they asked the first-graders to guess which branch the song represented.

But judging by reactions in the room full of parents and family, many of them veterans, the target of veteran appreciation extends beyond forming the children’s minds as teachers aim to mold them into well-rounded citizens.

Some children stood to read their lines for the program.

“We know you’ve made sacrifices so we can live in a free country,” said one girl.

“We say the Pledge of Allegience because of you,” recited another boy.

Dozens of other iterations decorated the wall, articulating the definition of difficult concepts like freedom and sacrifice with inexperienced handwriting on paper, clarified by the teacher’s translation underneath the less legible words.

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
First-graders at Duncombe Elementary School sang patriotic songs including You’re a Grand Old Flag and My Country Tis of Thee in honor of veterans Friday.

“I just think they need to learn from a very young age the sacrifices that people have given to make our country what it is,” said teacher Laurel Redmond. “It’s easy to take for granted. So we’re really trying to teach pride in our school and country and town. That’s just one of our really important goals.”

And she’s been teaching that value long enough that some of her former students attended Friday to watch 2019’s first-graders show that they’ve come to learn the same values, too.

One attendee, a man wearing his veteran’s cap, teared up as he reconnected with his old teacher. He was there to see his nephew in the program.

Other decorations adorning the room included drawings of the various uniforms worn by different branches of the armed forces, drawn from the perspective of a child that adults can’t imitate, inspirated by the veterans in their own family.

“A lot of these kids have veterans in their families,” said Redmond, “so they kind of understand what it means to have sacrifices within their family.”

That sacrifice can range from knowing relatives that passed away to not seeing their parents for birthdays or holidays because they’re serving overseas.

She said sacrifice, a big part of the meaning broken down to them in teaching about Veterans Day, can be a difficult concept for children that age. But talking about how it affects them helps “put it closer to home” to understand the sacrifice of protecting freedom.

Freedom is another tough concept that teachers try to introduce early.

“We talk about it mostly referring to other places in the world where they don’t get to make those choices,” Redmond said — like choosing your church or your mom being able to drive.

There’s a lot more to instilling American values than learning the songs they waved miniature flags to as their parents proudly snapped pictures, the teacher revealed.

“I think they’re beginning to get it,” she said. “It’s a start.”