ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Mia Schena leads the salute to the flag at the start of the Veterans Day assembly at the Johnson Elementary School in Nahant Tuesday.
By MICHELE DURGIN
NAHANT — Students and faculty at the Johnson Elementary School honored America’s heroes Tuesday, celebrating Veterans Day a few days early and fully appreciating the sacrifices made by our servicemen and servicewomen.
Fifth-grader Daniela DiCostanzo, 10, said she enjoyed the day-long tribute. “I am glad we have this event for the veterans, because they have sacrificed so much to keep us safe and I am proud of them.”
Principal Kevin Andrews said he was delighted with the enthusiasm and respect shown to those who serve our country. He said some 20 to 40 veterans of all ages were expected to visit the school throughout the day.
“Veterans have been meeting with students and answering questions about their branch of the service, as well as talking to them about the importance of Veterans Day,” said Andrews. A schoolwide concert concluded the day of appreciation, with students, teachers and members of the military, both past and present, singing patriotic tunes.
Andrews said the focus was on the Coast Guard because there is an active station in town. He believes connecting to events and groups in the community gives a more tangible meaning to the learning experience.
Ten servicemen and servicewomen chatted with the school’s fifth- and sixth-graders. A pizza lunch followed.
Hayden Hunt, 24, a member of the Coast Guard stationed in Boston, was thankful to be invited to the activity-filled event.
“This is terrific,” he said. “I have been stationed here for only three weeks, and a day like this reminds me of what is really important in life. Talking with the kids has been great. They are so appreciative of what I do, and that makes me so proud to say that I am an active member of the Armed Services.”
Retired teacher Peggy Silva returned to the school where she taught for most of her career because she loves the true spirit of gratitude the day always brings out in both students and staff.
“It’s so wonderful to honor those service people we have lost, as well as the ones who are currently serving,” she said. “And programs like this really drive home the idea that Veterans Day is so much more than a day off from school or a big sale at the mall.”