ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

'Thank you for your service': Great Lakes students celebrate local heroes

The annual event honoring veterans and first responders returned to the Superior elementary school. The last one was held in 2019.

Vietnam veteran Jim White, left, shakes hands with students at Great Lakes Elementary School
Vietnam veteran Jim White, left, shakes hands with students at Great Lakes Elementary School after a Veteran’s Day assembly at the school in Superior on Friday morning, Nov. 11.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
We are part of The Trust Project.

SUPERIOR — As they walked down the hall Friday, Nov. 11, Great Lakes Elementary students shared handshakes and handwritten cards with veterans from the Richard I. Bong American Legion Post 435.

One child surprised Vietnam veteran Jim White with a hug as students returned to class following the Celebration of Service event. The children offered words of gratitude:

“Thank you for your service.”

“Happy Veterans Day.”

“My hand’s kind of sticky, but thank you for your service.”

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s the first time the school has held the celebration, which honors veterans, police officers and firefighters, since 2019.

“I’m thrilled to be back in business doing this yearly event,” said Principal Ryan Haroldson.

It was a day to recognize those who give up their own safety and well-being for the safety and well- being of others, he told the students.

Vietnam veteran Jim White, left, reaches out to shake hands with a student at Great Lakes Elementary School
Vietnam veteran Jim White, left, reaches out to shake hands with a student at Great Lakes Elementary School after a Veteran’s Day ceremony in Superior on Friday morning, Nov. 11.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“We call this selflessness. Selflessness refers to people who put the needs of others before their own needs,” Haroldson said. “We are so fortunate in this moment to be in the presence of selfless individuals.”

Veterans have sacrificed to give students freedoms, including the simple act of being able to go to school, Haroldson told the students.

"If you take one thing from this assembly this morning, the one thing I want you to take is gratitude," he said. "Gratitude means to show appreciation for people that do great things."

Students gathered in the gymnasium of the school holding small flags, some of them fluttered overhead during the celebration. There were songs — “The Star Spangled Banner” and “This Land is Your Land” — and a video. When Haroldson asked anyone in the audience who had served in the military to stand up, a few kindergarteners mistakenly got to their feet.

Third grader Kade Lawson, 8, was one of the students chosen to hold a larger flag to line a walkway for the veterans. He said it was important to hold the event for them “because they served our country.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The morning assembly ended with the walk down the hall.

“We’re glad that the school invited us to honor the veterans, show respect for us,” said Butch Liebaert, commander of Post 435.

Third grader Kade Lawson, 8, holds his flag steady during a Veteran’s Day ceremony at Great Lakes Elementary School
Third grader Kade Lawson, 8, holds his flag steady during a Veteran’s Day ceremony at Great Lakes Elementary School in Superior on Friday morning, Nov. 11.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“We appreciate all the acknowledgment,” said Vietnam veteran Joseph Wojtoff, who served in the U.S. Navy

The school was “getting the word out to the young people to know about what the veterans are all about and what the military is all about,” he added.

Some students incorporated the celebration into their classroom activities. Third grade students, for example, took a deeper dive into Veterans Day.

“We want them to understand what the purpose is of Veterans Day, like why we celebrate it and how it’s important to honor veterans and give thanks and have gratitude for all that they’ve done,” said third grade teacher Michele Conlan.

The children made poppies, a symbol remembering veterans that dates back to World War I, and discussed the significance of wearing them. They wrote cards for veterans who are family members of fellow students and staff. Third grade teacher Michelle Bong gave a presentation on her distant cousin, Richard I. Bong, America’s Ace of Aces.

“And then we just talk about the whole respect piece, you know, from the flag to how do you thank a veteran properly, different ways of showing gratitude for veterans,” Bong said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Bringing the celebration of service event back was a wonderful experience, teachers said. Haroldson called it another step back toward normal for the school.

“Very emotional,” said Bong.

Vietnam veteran Joseph Wojtoff, right, talks with students and staff members at Great Lakes Elementary School
Vietnam veteran Joseph Wojtoff, right, talks with students and staff members at Great Lakes Elementary School as they leave the gym after a Veteran’s Day ceremony on Friday morning, Nov. 11.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
Students at Great Lakes Elementary School hold up flags as they perform a song during their Veteran’s Day ceremony
Students at Great Lakes Elementary School hold up flags as they perform a song during their Veteran’s Day ceremony on Friday morning, Nov. 11.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
Principal Ryan Haroldson speaks to the crowd at Great Lakes Elementary School during their Veteran’s Day ceremony
Principal Ryan Haroldson speaks to the crowd at Great Lakes Elementary School during their Veteran’s Day ceremony on Friday morning, Nov. 11.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Related Topics: EDUCATIONSUPERIOR SCHOOLS
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
What to read next
Zak McClelland, who also owns Mrs. Mac’s Towing and Transport in Duluth, has taken ownership of Bob's South Tower Auto Repair and added 24/7 towing to the business.
Investigators used wiretaps, intercepted packages and recovered a machine gun conversion kit during the execution of more than 50 search warrants, resulting in the seizure of roughly $1 million
Preliminary information indicates a 64-year-old man from Watertown, Wisconsin, was standing on rail to pull a tarp when he fell to his death.
The strike planned to begin Dec. 11 has been called off, the Minnesota Nurses Association said, as all hospitals except St. Luke's Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors have reached tentative agreements.