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About a dozen voices chanted in unison: We owe so much to those who kept us safe from terror, so when we see a uniform we say thank you to every wearer.
Baucom Elementary School students recited those words during the schools annual Veterans Day celebration. Its an event that has grown from seven to 74 veterans in its eight-year history, drawing military men and women from all over the country.
Connie Cronk, a physical education teacher at Baucom, started the program in 2004 after realizing that her students had no idea what Veterans Day was about.
They thought it was about veterinarians, or they didnt know what it was at all, said Cronk, who is retiring. Now its become a Baucom family event. The children are invested in it. The whole school gets involved.
Fifth-graders wrote essays about Veterans Day. The school choir performed, and the Apex marching band played The Star-Spangled Banner.
Although Cronk wont organize the event next year, she said the tradition will continue.
Some people have already stepped up and are willing, she said.
Cronk said the program has been successful because it makes the holiday personal. On Friday, students proudly escorted their family members who have served in the military down an aisle and to their seats as their names were read.
For some veterans, it was the first time they received public recognition for their service.
I have some guys who served in Vietnam tell me this is the first time someone has said thank you, Cronk said.
The assembly is also time for inter-generational bonding. While lining up for the ceremony which was repeated three times throughout the day Cadence Gross, 7, goofed around with her grandfather, retired Army Maj. Paul Gross.
With some front teeth missing Cadence grinned as her grandfather tried to teach her how to properly salute.
I've enjoyed it immensely, 83-year-old Gross said of the school event. I drove up from Spring Hope because I wanted to support my granddaughter. I want to teach her respect for the military. So many people dont think about what veterans are, what they had to do to become veterans.
Gross said he joined the Army when he was 17 and served tours of duty in the Korean War and Vietnam.
Other children also proudly showed off their relatives on Friday.
Ten-year-old Jamia Hopkins knows what her grandfather Joel Miller did: I know that he saved the country.
Miller, 90, was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Navys first all-black pilot unit.
For Miller, participating in Baucom Elementary Schools event was both an honor and a duty.
I felt it was a contribution, he said. Im thankful that Im still able to be among the survivors. Few of us are still around.