On a fall Friday morning at Randolph Elementary, fifth- and sixth-grade students filed into the school gym to sing songs about America to veterans.
Vietnam veteran David Peirce, who was with the U.S. Navy, said, "To have these kids and people today now come up to us and say thank you for serving still puts a lump in my throat."
Especially because "thank you" is a phrase these men and women are just getting used to.
"When we came back we were spit upon," Peirce said. "We were not appreciated at all."
Peirce and other Vietnam veterans sat down with students to share war stories and teach kids about the conflicts they faced for simply serving their country. Teachers marveled at the shared wisdom between young and old.
"They touched my heart," said Erica McLaughlin, the principal at Randolph Elementary School. "There is something about children with the veterans that makes it so special and so real."
McLaughlin wants students to understand who's responsible for their freedom.
"It's just good for the children to see the faces that are protecting our country," McLaughlin said.
They fought so all of us could feel free to stand out in a school assembly, wear a cookie monster shirt to class or one day take a stand of our own.
"People can really come together if they want to be," Peirce said. "Why can't this happen all over the world?"
As Peirce would tell you sometimes being a hero means reaching out to say thanks, even if that only happens one day a year.
The school says it plans to change the annual celebration each year to give veterans more reason to come back and hear students' gratitude.
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