For years, the students at Lighthouse Christian School have taken the time to thank veterans for their service to god and country.
“The main reason we do it is that they always remember the importance of Veterans Day — that it’s not always a day off. That the students know the ‘why’ behind Veterans Day and never take that for granted,” said Lighthouse Christian Director Terri Menoche.
“We want them to notice and recognize people serving our country. I want them to remember that a price has been paid for their freedom, and to never forget that.”
This year, Lighthouse Christian will focus on Korean War veterans at their Nov. 16 program. Veterans and their families are being invited to attend the program, which will run from 1 to 3 p.m.
“Our teachers supply educational techniques to make them aware of historical events,” said Pat Viguie, Lighthouse’s special programs coordinator. “Guest speakers at our programs give our students insights regarding the military experience, as well as sharing the devastations of past wars and present.
“Before our program, we try to obtain speakers to share with our students, first-hand, the experience they have encountered in military service.”
The program will allow students to show their love and appreciation for those who served. Every branch will be honored during the program, and a “missing man” table will honor POWs.
“With each program, we tried to nurture in our students the appreciation of those who served our country, are still serving, and of course to recognize those who have paid the ultimate price with their lives,” said Viguie.
“Programs have grown throughout the years; our children see many repeat guests, as well as new ones each year. They look forward to using their God-given gifts and talents to entertain with songs, letters, poems, skits... also serving during the luncheon, and especially the honor of praying for them.”
This year, the guest speaker will be U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Walter Koopman, who served in Korea.
During the program, fifth-grade students will also participate in a flag-folding ceremony.
Menoche said the program has impacted students over the years, as made evident by their actions outside of school.
“We have a family that over the summer was walking into a restaurant in the Seaford/Laurel area. As they were going in, their child, who is in third grade, said, ‘Mom, I’ll be right back.’ He walked over to a gentleman who had a veterans’ hat on, reached out his hand and said, ‘Thank you for your service, sir.’
“That was huge — just that recognizing. It just floored the gentleman. It meant so much to him. He told the mother, ‘I’ve never had someone that young come up to me and thank me like that.’ The third-grader told his family he had to go over to thank him because that’s what they learned at the Veterans Day program.”
At the end of the program, veterans line the front of the church sanctuary and are thanked for their service by every single Lighthouse student.
“That’s just a very powerful time,” said Menoche. “We encourage them to look up, grab them by the hand and thank them, help these students get this eye contact. Sometimes that’s a difficult thing in the day and age we live. We’re used to communicating with technology so much that eye contact — it doesn’t always come easy.
“It’s a huge blessing to them,” she added of the veterans. “You see it get to their hearts and penetrate to areas that may have been hurt or offended… All the things people may have said that hurt or offended them over the years melt away, because somebody is looking up to them and giving them a genuine thank-you.
“A lot of the families and adults will get in the line, too. They are thanked quite a bit. I know for some of them, that first time is just, ‘Wow — that’s never happened before.’”
All veterans and their families are being invited to the free program, and they will be served buffet lunch following the program, provided by local restaurants.
Menoche emphasized that it is important to teach the next generation to honor veterans, their families and their collective sacrifice.
“We need to give them honor, because whether we agree or disagree with the war, they still served. They did their job. We just want to make sure we honor them for sacrificing for us,” she said. “No matter what war they served in, war is war and there’s not a lot of pretty about it. We’ve got to honor these folks for what they’ve given and what they’ve done.”
By Maria Counts