As some of you know, this is my first year as principal of a great little school in central Arizona. We prefer to think of our school as an oasis in the desert. It is a place where children grow closer to God while being challenged educationally. As a staff, we love our little school — we love our students, the community, and the opportunity we have to make a difference. When our teachers gather for our morning devotional time, they pray for each child and discuss how they can minister to the emotional, spiritual, and educational needs of each. It’s a pretty special place and I think each of us realizes it’s a true blessing to be involved.
“But what does this have to do with Veterans?” you say. Well, here it is. This year we decided to reach out to the Veterans in our community. We wanted them to know we were thankful for them. We wanted our middle schoolers to be involved with them, to interact with them. We wanted to serve them; to show gratitude for their service for us. After all, they fought to preserve the freedoms we enjoy, one of them being educational choice.
And so the preparations began. The music teacher began putting together a program of WW II songs — Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition, and patriotic songs — This is My Country, God Bless America. The computer teacher helped each student to design a note of thanks. Emails went out and soon parents and staff were volunteering to cook.
Our All-American menu was decided and the students were invited to make up ‘military’ names for the food. Thursday, Nov. 7th came and all was readied. The cafeteria was decorated in red, white, and blue. Menus placed on the tables read:
Rucksack Roast Beef
Green Beret Beans
Military Mashed Potatoes
Tuck and Rolls
Apple Bombed Pie
Veterans began arriving. We had planned for 50 for our inaugural dinner, thinking we would start small and grow with each year. Sure enough, we filled our quota quickly. The piano played, the welcome was given, the students marched in and began to sing. Several Veterans wiped tears from their eyes as they listened. Others sang along. The children seemed to grow in their role as the performance continued. The fifth and sixth graders continued to sing and recite patriotic poems as the seventh and eighth graders served dinner.
The old and the young mingled. Veterans were represented from all four branches. The longest serving was recognized. The oldest was recognized. The men’s faces shown. The students chatted with them. Again and again gratefulness was expressed for the sacrifice each man had made.
The evening ended with the rememberance that Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice when He died for our sins. He died to set us free from the bondage of sin — the ultimate sacrifice by the Ultimate Soldier.
No one rushed off. No one wanted to leave. I think one of the best parts of the night for me, was when I saw a fifth grader go over to a table and refer to one of the thank you notes laying on the table.
Student – “So did you like my note? I made that for you.”
Veteran – ” Yes, this was a great night. Thank you so much for all of this.”
Student – “No. Thank YOU.”