Students at a Buffalo-area elementary school got a head start on Veterans Day celebrations, welcoming some local military and first response personnel to their school.
Hoover Elementary School, on Thorncliff Road in the Ken-Ton School District, opened its doors to representatives of local military units, including Air Force, Army National Guard and the Coast Guard. There were also representatives of first response agencies including local police and fire stations. There was even one representative of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who brought his K9 partner. The latter drew some of the louder responses from students who gathered in the school auditorium for a special presentation which opened the Veterans Day celebration.
Senior Airman Ryan Horton, stationed with the 914th Air Refueling Wing in Niagara Falls, was among the special guests.
"They're excited to see us. They have questions, so it's a good opportunity to educate and show a friendly face to people in uniform so it's approachable," he said.
Selected students read passages on stage before the full student body sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee," "God Bless America" and "The Star-Spangled Banner." The guests were introduced one by one and all received enthusiastic applause. Some of the louder cheers came when a World War II-era veteran was introduced among the nearly 20 guests.
Jean Martin was also among the veterans of earlier generations. Her granddaughter is a teacher at Hoover Elementary. Martin served in the US Marines for three years during the 1950s. Watching her great-grandson snacking on a doughnut hole nearby, she noted what a busy week it was for children to learn about their nation, beginning with the election process and now this veterans' recognition.
"I was 20 when I went in," she recalled about her Marines service. "I came from a giant family, a lot of military. One of the reasons I joined was because I wanted my own room."
Instead, she smiled, they put her in a dormitory with approximately 150 other women and she slept on an upper bunk bed. She also met her husband, who was also a Marine. They were married for more than 60 years, until his passing last year.
Following the special assembly, students returned to their classrooms as the guests split up and visited individual classes. Some brought pieces of equipment to show, including safe munitions, helmets or other hardware. They read a book to students. And they answered plenty of questions.
"Being in the Air Force, one of the most common questions is if I'm in the Army," said Senior Airman Taylor with a laugh.