SANDPOINT — Veterans Day is a day to honor all of the men and women who served their country, said Washington Elementary fifth-grader Peyton Polhemus as she read her winning submission for the school's Veterans Day writing contest.
"These veterans have seen things that nobody should have to see or let alone experience," she said.
Peyton has three family members who serve in the United States armed forces, so to her, she said, Veterans Day is a way to let veterans know they are appreciated for all the hard work and time they put in to keep this country free and safe.
The contest was put forth to all the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students, and one winner from each grade was picked to read their submission during the school's annual Veterans Day assembly on Tuesday. Hailey Critchell was the fourth-grade winner for her paper, during which each sentence ended with "I am red, white and blue."
"I see my free country everyday; I want freedom forever," Hailey read. "I am red, white and blue."
The sixth-grade winner of the contest was Hannah Harvey, who said it is important to remember those who risked or lost their lives serving the country. In the Vietnam War, she said, 58,220 Americans lost their lives, and in World War I, 116,708 American soldiers died. Veterans Day is also a remembrance of the date as Nov. 11 marked the end of the "Great War," Hannah said.
"That is why Veterans Day is such an important holiday and I hope you appreciate it as much as I do," Hannah said.
Bryan Hult, U.S. Army brigadier general and Bonner County Veterans Services officer, who was the day's keynote speaker, said the girls did a "wonderful" job and expressed things to their classmates that he didn't express in his speech.
"It was wonderful and very thoughtful," Hult said. "They were very personal and from the heart."
During his talk, Hult told the kids the story of how he became a soldier. It was when he was engaged to his wife, he said, and she asked him why he had never served in the military.
"I didn't have a good answer for her," Hult said. "So three weeks later, I raised my right hand under the delayed entry program and about five months later, I became a soldier."
He showed the kids some photos of his journey through infantry school, flight school, jump school and more. Toward the end of his presentation, Hult rounded back to his decision to enter the military, and how each day the kids make decisions as well, to obey their parents and listen to their teachers, so they can "become the best they can be."
Hult's speech was followed by Terri Caldwell's music class, with the sixth-graders singing "Sing a Song of Peace," after which the girls read their winning submissions for the writing contest.
The assembly ended with an all-school sing along to the armed forces medley, which includes, "The Caisson Song," "The Marine's Hymn," "Anchors Aweigh," "Semper Paratus," and "The U.S. Air Force." And although technology decided to fail them, Tiga Burright, a third-grade teacher at Washington, grabbed the microphone and led the students through the medley.
It is the fourth year Jeanne Warwick, sixth-grade teacher at Washington, has organized the assembly for the purpose of making sure the kids understand what Veterans Day is. Also, she said, Veterans Day typically falls about the same time as parent-teacher conferences. Since there is no school on those days, holding the assembly, even if it is a few days before Veterans Day, ensures the day is not skipped.
"I just thought it was really important that we remember our veterans and instill some pride in the kids," Warwick said.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.