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Hales Corners — Students at Edgerton Elementary School said thank-you to local veterans through songs, letters, and salutes on Thursday, Nov. 10, just a day before Veterans Day.

Though Edgerton has held other events in the past to celebrate special days like Veterans Day, this is the first time in 10 years the school has celebrated this particular day of observance with a schoolwide program, a tradition the school will likely continue in the following years.

Barb McDonald, the school's music teacher and the event's organizer, hopes that the program will help the elementary schoolers make a personal connection with Veterans Day and the veterans themselves.

Making connection

"Kids need to be reintroduced and re-educated in the importance of honoring our heroes," McDonald said, explaining why the school felt it was important to recognize the public holiday.

Eleven veterans visited Edgerton's gym that day, and several told stories of their service or gave advice to the sea of students seated on the floor.

Amber Frymark, who spent 10 years in the Air Force, encouraged the students to respect authority, never leave their friends behind, and follow their dreams.

"Be whatever you want to be when you grow up. Do whatever you want to do, even if someone tells you that you can't, you're not good enough, or you're not smart enough, or tall enough, or skinny enough, or that girls aren't allowed. Do it anyways," said Frymark, the only female veteran at the assembly. "Life will not always be easy, but be brave, just like a solider would."

In their own words

In the days leading up to the event, the students had written letters to the veterans, thanking them for their service to the country.

A few of the older students stood up and read their letters in front of the room.

"Thank you for your service. I hope you didn't get hurt. It probably took a lot of courage and bravery for you to do it," student Charlee Cohn read from the podium.

In addition to the letters read aloud, the veterans also received more than 100 individual handwritten letters.

Near the end of the assembly, students handed each veteran a "wreath" made from cutouts of the students' handprints and a scroll with letters wrapped up inside. Each scroll was filled with about 10 letters written by students in all different grade levels at the school.

Final thank-you

To wrap up the ceremony, all the elementary schoolers sang a song, "You Are Our Heroes" by Wauwatosa composer Teresa Jennings, they had learned beforehand in class.

At the end of the song, the students stood and saluted the veterans at the front of the room.

"We appreciate it deeply, what you're doing right now," veteran David Haro said. "I cannot remember in my entire history or life ever being honored by the little ones, like are present here."

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