Local fifth-graders learned Tuesday about Veterans Day.
They saw about 100 former American soldiers.
They heard some of them talk about far away places of war such as Gallipoli, Normandy, Vietnam and Iraq and about concepts of freedom, honor, duty and love of country.
And they flinched at the crack of the shots fired by an honor guard in memory of deceased veterans.
Forty-seven fifth-graders from Hillcrest School learned Tuesday about Veterans Day at the annual ceremony held at the American Legion Dorsey-Liberty Post No. 14, 3408 W. Sixth.
"I went in (Monday) and asked them about Veterans Day and there were so many who didn't know -- and that's kind of sad," said Helen Tuley, a Hillcrest fifth-grade teacher who arranged the visit.
"I was shocked children didn't know. It's not a concept for the kids to grow up with, like it used to be," Tuley said. "It's become more of a shopping day than a day of celebration."
Tuley and Coyla Ezell, another fifth-grade teacher at the school, made arrangements with the American Legion to attend the ceremony.
And the veterans took them in and made them part of the ceremony, giving each a small flag.
"Veterans Day is celebrated every Nov. 11," Alan Fisher, a member of the post's executive committee, told the children early in the ceremony. "Its purpose is to remember the sacrifices of men and women who served in our country's wars."
Fisher reminded the children of their freedoms.
"Through your parents, you have the right of free speech, the freedom of the church of your choice and the freedom to associate with your friends," he said.
Some of those freedoms were established more than 200 years ago. Since that time, men and women have gone to war to defend those freedoms, he said.
"Perhaps some of your fathers and grandfathers are in those wars," he said.
The day was originally called Armistice Day to mark the end of World War I. It was later renamed Veterans Day after World War II to include the veterans of those wars.
"Since then, we have had the Korean War, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada and the Gulf War," Fisher said. "All of the servicemen and women of those wars are now honored on Veterans Day."
The children listened to several veterans speak about patriotism and the selflessness of those who died in past wars.
They also saw a flag ceremony by the local veterans auxiliary organizations.
And they heard from a state Disabled American Veteran officer that the country shouldn't forget about veterans struggling with their disabilities.
After the ceremony, two fifth-graders, Elspeth Cardin-Ritter and Julie McGinn, both said they found it "very interesting."
"I liked the gun salute," Julie said.
Stephen Skepnek, another fifth-grader, also said he liked watching the honor guard shoot.
"It was cool," Stephen said. "I didn't know there were so many veterans."
-- Dave Toplikar's phone message number is 832-7151. His e-mail address is email@example.com.