Fifth-graders from Brownstown Elementary School have been making the 15-minute walk from the school to the Jackson County Courthouse to participate in the Veterans Days program on Nov. 11 for a number of years.
Veterans Day, however, was on Sunday this year, leading the men and women of American Legion Camp Jackson Post 112 to schedule that service at 11 a.m. Monday.
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Recognizing veterans, including the estimated 2,350 living in Jackson County, is important to many of those students and the veterans in attendance.
Eleven-year-old Gage Mull said many in his family have served in the military.
“My great-grandpa, my papa and my dad,” he said.
His father was a Marine, while his grandfather and great-grandfather both served in the Army.
Each have shared some of their experience with him.
“Just the basic stuff about what everyday life was like around the base and what they did,” Mull said.
With that kind of military background, it should comes as no surprise Mull said he might decide to serve in the Armed Forces somewhere down the road. It’s also no surprise he understands the purpose of Veterans Day.
“We celebrate Veterans Day to honor the brave men and women who serve in the Armed Forces,” he said.
Classmate Micah Sheffer, 11, said he thinks Veterans Day is important because the people who have served and fought for their country know the risks they take each day they serve.
Like most of the students present for the ceremony, Sheffer said he has relatives who have served or are serving in the military.
“My uncle served in the Army, and my grandpa served,” he said.
One of the fifth-grade teachers, Becky Baker, said the students study the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the three branches of government and why Americans have so many freedoms they should be thankful to have.
“Those freedoms are possible because we have a strong military with patriotic people to fight for those freedoms,” she said. “Today, Veterans Day, is the day we set aside to recognize and thank those brave people for their service. Since we study U.S. history, I think it’s important for them to realize that freedom is not free and acknowledge the significance of our veterans.”
One of the ways the students do that is by making cards to give to the veterans who attend the program at the courthouse.
Lt. Colonel Max Middendorf, who spent 38 years serving with the Air Force, Air Force Reserves and Indiana Air National Guard, presented a brief history of Veterans Day before fielding questions from the fifth-graders.
Those questions ranged from whether Middendorf had any medals to what type of plane he flew while serving as an Air Force pilot.
He said he earned seven medals, including the distinguished service award for 30 years of service in the Air Force and Reserves.
“The medals are just a measure of what you have done so far,” he said.
Middendorf said he flew what were called fighter planes.
“F-84s F-100s and F4s,” he said.
“I enjoyed my time in the service flying those airplanes,” said Middendorf, who later spent his time with the military as a dentist.
Fifth-grader Lilly Brazzell, 11, said the most important thing she learned while studying U.S. history, including Veterans Day, is that everybody made a lot of sacrifices when they served.
“My dad was in the Army,” she said.
Classmate Carter Covert, 11, said Veterans Day is important because it celebrates those who served their country. He was one of many to give Middendorf a card following the presentation.
The Rev. Michael Hogg, who served as emcee for the program, said his older brother served in Vietnam while Hogg attended high school.
“For three months during that campaign, we didn’t hear from him,” he told students. “Every night, my mother prayed for him. We waited until we heard from him that he was fine.”
Hogg said every day, seven veterans take their own lives.
“They are overwhelmed by their wounds or their pain or what they had to endure as young men and women,” he said. “It is good that you are here today to pause, to give thanks and to remember.”