More than 700 students at St. Martin East Elementary School took part in a musical celebration Friday to thank those who have served our country. It was a moving tribute to veterans in Jackson County.
"USA! USA! USA!" the children chanted as they waved American flags.
Their little voices rang out with pride and their hearts were bursting with patriotism.
"We honor soldiers who protect our nation, for service as our warriors. Without them, freedom would have died," recited the students.
Students at St. Martin East Elementary practiced long and hard for the special Veterans Day tribute.
"If you love our country, thank a vet. If you cherish freedom, thank a vet," they sang loudly.
"We want them to be uplifted. We want them to feel appreciated, and know that we love them for their service," said music teacher Jay Rustin.
In the crowd, veterans and soldiers were touched by the show of appreciation. Many of them are parents, grandparents, and relatives of the children.
"Oh, tears in your eyes, tears in your eye. Yeah, very moving, very moving," said WWII Veteran Lee Wilson.
"I thought it was awesome. It's always great to come and be recognized on Veterans Day and we work hard and a lot of people give their lives and stuff every day for this country," said Alvin Holmes, who is active duty Air Force.
Each veteran left the ceremony with a hand-written letter and gifts decorated in red, white and blue.
"I received some beautiful pictures and just some heartfelt comments and stuff. I love it, very nice," said Keeshia Holmes, who is active duty Air Force.
"I am sorry you had to stay away from your family. Love Dee. Thank you," Army and Navy Veteran Arthur Lamey Jr. read from his letter.
When asked what he thought about those words, he replied, "I want to cry for joy. I've been through a lot, and I'm happy and thankful for these children. God bless America.
"Just unbelievable at my age and to see all these little folks hand me something like this. I will cherish this a long time," said Wilson.
St. Martin East Elementary has been hosting a Veterans Day ceremony since after Hurricane Katrina.
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