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Students share the afternoon with veterans

The Hillsdale Daily News - 11/14/2018

Nov. 14--HILLSDALE -- Gier Elementary School fourth grade students had a lesson in civic duty Friday by making some veterans at the Hillsdale County Medical Care Facility feel appreciated.

Laura Baker's classroom made the facility on Mechanic Road in Hillsdale in cars driven by parent volunteers in order to mingle with more than a dozen veterans.

Each year, the Elks Lodge brings a dinner for the veterans, so the idea to decorate and present a program appealed to the students.

"It warmed my heart to see my students want to come and visit with these veterans," Baker said. "It was a wonderful time that we hope can be an annual event."

The field trip was fueled when Baker, the daughter-in-law of Denise Baker, the facility's administrator, asked if she could bring a few students to the center to visit with veterans.

"It was going to be just a couple of students who wanted to come with me, but the whole class of 21 students wanted to come," Baker said.

The students made cards and signs for the veterans, decorated tables with patriotic centerpieces and set up a fallen soldier table to honor the veterans.

After set up was complete, the students had a tour of the facility before the veterans were called to the one of the center's dining rooms for a presentation planned by the fourth graders. After presenting cards to each, the students stood in a line to read a poem titled "Fallen Soldiers."

Life Enrichment Director Laurie Newell said the facility houses 20 veterans all together and usually between 12 to 15 come to the dinner.

"This is a great addition to the dinner that the veterans appreciate," Newell said.

Fourth-grader Nolan Francis said the occasion meant a lot to him because he wanted to honor his great grandfather who was a World War II pilot and his grandfather, who was in the Vietnam War.

"I wanted to come because my family has people who fought in the wars," Nolan said.

His mother, Haley called the field trip "awesome.

"He's been excited about it all week," Francis said.

As several students gathered around resident and veteran Jerry Carr, who served in the Army, Carr became emotional. Reading his hand-written card that thanked him for his service, Carr said it was "awfully nice to have the young people come."

Helping facilitate the occasion, Nursing Assistant Michelle Welch said she enjoys helping with life enrichment activities that Newell oversees. Welch said this activity was important for the youth as it teaches them to respect and honor those who have fought for the freedoms they have today.

"It also helps them to interact with the older people," Welch said.

Newell asked each veteran present what branch they served in and offered an opportunity for them to describe what it was like to leave their families and serve their country.

Veteran Dick Rhoades, who was celebrating his birthday, said he had six brothers and brothers-in-law in the service. Newell explained to the children that the practice was to not ask families with many members to serve at the same time, making it a hardship for families. She also asked family members of veterans present what it was like to be an "army brat" (child of a service member) by having to move frequently.

"Sometimes we don't think about the stress of that and how it was difficult for them," Newell said.

Dressed in his uniform for the occasion, Walt Watson said he fought in the front lines during the Korean War and was in the American Legion for 11 years.

"It was wonderful to see these youngsters here today," Watson said. "I know I enjoyed it!"


(c)2018 Hillsdale Daily News, Mich.

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