Area youngsters celebrate military vets with ceremonies, songs and parade cheers

Credit: Journal News

Caption

Credit: Journal News

The nation’s next generation honored those members of earlier generations who served in America’s armed forces as part of Veterans Day celebrations on Thursday across Butler County.

Among one of the largest local events saw hundreds of Fairfield North Elementary students invite military veterans to take part in a flag-raising ceremony at the school.

The former service men and women were serenaded with patriotic songs, including the official song of each branch of the U.S. armed forces, and listened — sometimes emotionally — as grade school students read tributes to veterans who have helped keep America free.

ExploreVeterans honored during Butler County ceremony in Hamilton

“I think it’s wonderful and I appreciate it so much,” said Vietnam War, U.S. Navy veteran James Breedlove, standing on the campus of the Fairfield Twp. grade school.

“It’s very emotional. I had a lot of good buddies over there (Vietnam) that are gone now. My daughter was in the service … my father served in two branches of the service. There are some good memories and there are some bad memories … but I’m so glad they (students) are doing this for us veterans,” said Breedlove.

The flag ceremony was quickly followed by a mini-parade of vehicles carrying more veterans, township and area political officials along with local police and fire trucks moving past the school grounds on Morris Road.

They traveled to the adjacent Heroes Park, at Millikin and Morris roads, for a community-wide ceremony featuring guest speaker retired USAF Lt. Col. Kathy Staiger, of Beavercreek, and special honoree Lt. Barney Landry, a 1951 graduate of West Point and a Korean War and Cold War pilot who flew through nuclear test clouds.

Current U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. and Fairfield North school parent Lydia Morton shared the honor of raising the American flag with the help of her fourth-grade son Akeem.

As Morton looked over large crowd of students — many of whom wore patriotic colors and held up hand-drawn posters praising veterans — she said it made her feel good “to see the support all the community has for the soldiers.”

“It’s nice being appreciated,” she said.

That was the goal of the school’s first, Veterans Day flag ceremony, said Fairfield North Elementary Principal Denise Hayes.

“We are just so excited to have our kids immersed in what Veterans Day means. They need to know that veterans are more than … people that they read about in textbooks, but that they are grandparents and fathers and mothers and brothers who are all right here in our community,” said Hayes.

The holiday was also marked by numerous, similar ceremonies big and small across the Butler County.

At Hamilton Schools’ Ridgeway Elementary an annual veteran’s event to honor those who served saw U.S. Army veteran Tim McDonald steal the event spotlight as he led hundreds of youngsters in song.

The father of four said he wants the next generation to ask the question: “What do I have to offer my nation, my town or my village?”

“If it’s military (service) that’s awesome, but everyone should offer something,” said McDonald.

“It’s an honor to be part of this and we have an amazing nation for me to be able to come into a room (gym) full of people who are here to honor the nation by honoring the military,” he said.

Photojournalist Nick Graham contributed to this story.

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