Juban Park students honor vets

Jayden Jackson watched more than 90 veterans receive certificates thanking them for their military service during Juban Parc Elementary School’s third annual Veterans Day program.

“It means a lot to recognize the veterans,” the fifth-grader said following the hour-long service. “They’re fighting for us and to keep our country safe.”

Students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade participated in the program to honor veterans of all wars.

Paul Fradella, 87, the only WWII veteran at Friday’s program, said he attended because his two great-grandsons, Gregory Paul Crain, 7, and Grant Crain, 5, asked.

“They wanted me here so I’m here for them,” Fradella said. “I know a lot who served with me that are not here. Those are the heroes of the world.”

Fradella, a Navy veteran who served from 1943 to 1946, was aboard the USS Haraden in December 1944 when it was hit by a kamikaze.

Program organizer and fifth-grade teacher Kelli Lowery said students have been learning the importance of Veterans Day. Each teacher, Lowery said, incorporated a veterans activity into his or her lesson plan.

“Especially since it’s an election year, they’re into patriotism and want to celebrate and show their support for our veterans.”

For Jason Teed, of Central, Friday’s program was “wonderful.”

The Marine Corps veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq said, “It’s a great feeling” knowing people appreciate veterans.

Before the program, students were asked to write an essay on what Veterans Day means to them.

During the program, a student from each grade level was selected to read his or her letter.

“I love my veterans,” second-grader Jude Horne read to the crowd gathered. “My veterans protect me. I live in freedom today because of our veterans.”

“I feel fortunate that these are people who are willing to fight to keep us safe,” fifth-grader Grace Cambre said.

The students also sang a medley of patriotic songs, and waved flags in honor of each branch of the military.

While fifth-grader Charles Bell, 10, enjoyed the program, he said he believes that people should think of veterans “every single day.”

For youth around the country who may not have been able to attend a Veterans Day program, Charles said he would tell them “to pray for veterans who fight for our country because we really need to thank them.”

The program concluded with a reception, where many of the youths joined the veterans for refreshments.

Don Wilkenson, of Kinder, whose grandson, Trever Cole, 9, attends the school, said he enjoyed the program.

“I liked it,” the Vietnam veteran said. “I like seeing all of the kids participate and get an appreciation for our country.”

“It makes me feel good that the school is doing this and promoting the veterans of our country,” he said.

“The children don’t really know about veterans unless the adults tell them,” Wilkenson, a Navy veteran, said.