BRUNSWICK — Memorial Elementary School students gave voice to their gratitude to local veterans in songs and stories Friday.
Students shared memories of loved ones who served in the military, and the fourth-grade students sang.
Students invited family members who had served in the military to attend the program as honored guests.
Jake Hamrick was one of six students selected to share an essay about a veteran that they knew. Jake spoke about his grandfather, Joe Schaeffer, who served in the U.S. Army.
Jake talked about how his grandfather, who was born in Yugoslavia, became a naturalized citizen and served in the Army. Thanks to the GI Bill, his grandfather was able to attend college and earn a degree, Jake said.
“He strongly believed in getting an education in college,” Hamrick said.
Jake said he learned that it’s important to serve your country.
“I learned that it’s also hard work,” he said.
Samantha Trefz spoke about her grandfather, who served in the Vietnam War.
“I learned that my grandpa made a big sacrifice for freedom in this country,” she said.
Toward the end of the program, Annemarie Hayest took the podium to offer special thanks to the teachers and classes that helped support Army Sgt. Michael Barnhardt, who is serving in Afghanistan. He has three children in Brunswick schools — 10th-grader Briahna, sixth-grader Austin and first-grader Haley.
Haley was at the memorial program with Hayest, a family friend, to present an American flag to teachers Tom Rounds and Sharyn Keller for their support of the Barnhardt family. The flag accompanied troops on a Sept. 11 combat mission called “Tamarack Road.”
“This flag bears witness to the resolve of the U.S. forces in combat operations against terrorist groups threatening the freedom of the United States of America and the world,” Hayest said.
Last year, when Austin was in fifth grade and Haley in kindergarten, Austin was in Rounds’ class and Haley in Keller’s class. The teachers worked together to send letters, pictures and a care package to Barnhardt.
“They sent letters from the fifth-graders and had the kindergartners draw pictures, and then they took a picture of both classes together with Mr. Rounds and Ms. Keller,” Hayest said.
Hayest also thanked Keller and Rounds for their support of Barnhardt’s three children, and their support of the country.
Barnhardt is stationed at Forward Operations Base Salerno in Afghanistan and serves on a helicopter unit. The base was attacked by 14 suicide bombers this summer, but no servicemen were hurt, Hayest said.
Barnhart is on his way home, arriving in Fort Hood, Texas, today.
“We hope to have him home next weekend,” Hayest said.
Contact Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.