A weathered, velvet-lined clarinet case lay at the feet of Army veteran Tom Glass. With the final, fuzzy notes of “Hail to the Chief” lingering in the air, the class of third-grade students burst into applause.
Glass was just one of about 30 service members who spent Veterans Day at Frisco Elementary School, telling his story in the classroom before attending a special ceremony in honor of the veterans.
Principal Renea Hill reminded students at the assembly how important it was to remember the people who had helped fight for their freedom.
“We honor and welcome the veterans who came to educate our youth in what it means to be a veteran,” she said.
The veterans represented all different branches of service; some served in World War II but most were veterans from Vietnam. Many had been coming to the event at Frisco Elementary for years, even after their own grandchildren graduated and moved on.
United States Air Force Academy veteran Tom Poole discussed with other veterans before his presentation what details should make it into his story for the fourth-grade class.
“All of us have incidents and stories, and they’re all different,” he said. “The things that went on might have been similar but we’re here to tell our stories.”
In front of a fifth-grade classroom, Air Force veteran Jim Doyle held up a photograph of a cemetery in Belgium where his father, who served in World War II, is buried. Doyle spoke about his father’s experience and how it takes all kinds of people to run the military.
“What I hope everybody realizes is that people like my dad, like these men up here, did what we did so you could be free,” he said.
In a corner of the school gym, Willie Hoevers was broadcasting live for American Veterans Radio, under a flag painted using every student’s handprints.
Crystal Goossen, Frisco Elementary PTA president, said veterans have been coming to the school for years, and this year they had more than ever before.
“We have a small community here, there’s no memorial or anything, so just by talking to the kids this is how they learn about the history,” she said.
As Glass shared his story with the third-graders about joining the U.S. Army Band, he got emotional talking about how the Army had helped pay for his education. Glass got his master’s degree thanks to the Army, and he was also able to attend Julliard to study music. As he passed around his old dog tags, Glass explained that in the band, he used to get to play for soldiers who were honored with medals like the Purple Heart, and even play for the president.
Goossen, who has a student in third grade and one in kindergarten, said letting the students hear firsthand from veterans helps make the experience memorable and impactful.
“It’s not a good guy and a bad guy in a game,” she said. “They can hear about war but they don’t really understand. This gives them a good picture to put it more in context.”
Students asked about the different types of ships and planes, how the soldiers lived and even what they ate during their time in the military. Teachers pulled down maps to point out where Vietnam is located, or where Germany is compared to Colorado.
“These veterans have a very important part of our country’s history to tell,” Goossen said. “They’re the reason we are free now.”
At the celebration, after the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the national anthem, a group of first-grade singers performed “We Thank You Veterans” followed by a poem and the playing of “Taps.” For Principal Hill, it was an important day.
“We appreciate them for their service, and honor their sacrifice,” she said. “They paid the price for our freedom.”
Larry Beardsley, an Air Force veteran, said seeing the students really reminded him of what he was fighting for.
“It’s so great to see so many smiling faces that are free,” he said.
“It’s not a good guy and a bad guy in a game. They can hear about war but they don’t really understand. This gives them a good picture to put it more in context.”
Frisco Elementary PTA president