MINOOKA – Hailee Joyce stood alongside her classmates Monday as they sang “Proud to be an American” to the veterans gathered in the gymnasium at Minooka Primary Center.
While the 200-plus students attending the morning ceremony sang in the general direction of the men and women sitting in folding chairs in the middle of the room, Hailee seemed to belt the familiar patriotic song in the direction of one man in particular: Her great-grandfather, Duane Stevenson.
Stevenson, who served in the Army during World War II, lives in St. Charles and came because it was his great-granddaughter’s school. For him, Monday was twice as special, as it also was his 90th birthday.
“It was very nice,” he said of the ceremony.
This is at least the fourth year Minooka Primary Center has held a Veterans Day ceremony for its young students, with separate assemblies in the morning and afternoon so all 430 of the school’s students could take part.
Principal Teresa Miller said more veterans attend every year, with at least 17 seated in a row of chairs in the middle of gym.
Children were asked to come to school dressed in red, white and blue, and the gymnasium was decorated with large ribbons made out of handprints the children made and then colored blue or red, or left white. Smaller “handprint” ribbons were presented to the veterans who attended the event.
“Minooka Primary Center students know when they meet a veteran, to say thank you,” Miller said. “Students know a veteran is a man or woman who has served in the armed forces. On Veterans Day, we honor all men and women who served our country.”
As they left, the students shook the hands of the veterans – representing the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, National Guard and Navy – who were present, with some giving hugs or high-fives.
The school is starting a service project to benefit veterans. Through Dec. 13, the school will be collecting items to send to veterans stationed overseas. Nonperishable food, such as snacks, are being sought, as are toiletries, recreational items and clothing.