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Grayslake school’s assembly ‘more meaningful than day off’

Grayslake-11/12/12 Mon./Frederick School
Vets with moment silence with Frederick Schools student art background.
| Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

Grayslake-11/12/12, Mon./Frederick School Vets with a moment of silence, with Frederick Schools student art in the background. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 12, 2013 1:50AM

GRAYSLAKE — Fifth and sixth-graders at Frederick School in Grayslake are creating a great tradition with a Veterans Day celebration and a Wall of Heroes for veterans related to the students.

Principal Eric Detweiler said Monday’s veterans assembly was done in two parts because of the number of students. “To me, it’s more meaningful than a day off of school,” he said.

The wall started small, but grew as more and more students questioned their family about veterans and learned about their uncles, aunts, grandfathers and great-grandfathers.

Like student Logan Smith who put his grandfather, Gordon Alyea, on the wall. Alyea was an Air Force airman first class who served on Okinawa and had to learn Morse code. There is a picture of him and a plane taken in 1959.

“It gets them to think while they are getting the story and talking to their family. We had to expand the wall because it was so popular,” said Detweiler.

On Monday, the students hosted over a dozen veterans in the gymnasium where they also had the color guard and drill team from Naval Station Great Lakes. The guest speaker was National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jose Guerrero, who has served three tours of duty. His wife, Lisa, a teacher’s assistant at the school, helped organize the first veterans assembly last year.

“My heart and passion is the military. If kids are going to be in school on Veterans Day, they need to know what it’s about,” she said. Her four stepsons, Jose Jr., Andy, Isaiah and Jesse, are all in the Army.

Her husband thanked the participants and told the students to take a moment of silence for the men and women currently serving overseas.

“Today, we get together for a day of remembrance, for our military personnel past and present,” he said. “This ceremony seems to grow and get bigger and bigger.”

He told a short story about a 7-year-old girl who came home to tell her father that she had learned something new in school today: Her teacher told her that “you saved the world and you are a hero because you are in the Army.”

“The title of hero is many times attached to names like LeBron James, Brian Urlacher, Oprah — the word hero has much deeper meaning than you think, especially after 9/11,” he said. “Keep that in mind and you might think about the firefighters, police officers and service officers.”

He said veterans are a unique 1 percent of the population; one of every 100 citizens has served his or her country.

“We come from all parts of the nation and we come from all walks of life. We’re fathers, mothers, sons, daughters. We’re rich and poor and somewhere in between. We’re diverse, we’re unique,” he said.

He reminded the students that a soldier’s professional ethos is, “We will never accept defeat. They don’t see themselves as brave or special, they’re just doing their jobs.”

He also recognized the families of veterans who have stood by and given support. “They have served in their own way,” said Guerrero. And while he urged students to say “thank you” to veterans on their day, he wanted them to take it a step further, to show through their actions and the way they treat people. “Let your actions be the torch that you hold high,” he said.

Spec. Aimee Forte, 26, of Grayslake was one of the veteran guests at the ceremony.

“It was really nice. I felt it was educating the students. You could see the children sitting in silence and watching in awe,” she said, also noting that some teachers and students shed a tear.

Jordon Benton of Indiana was there with his wife, Kristan, and their toddler, Milly. Kristan is from Grayslake and wanted to come to the ceremony. “I liked the ceremony. He (Guerrero) did a great job,” he said.

As the students filed out, a school-building employee started to fold up the chairs the veterans had been sitting on. Before he could put just a few away, veterans young and old just picked up the chairs and folded them placing them on the cart while he protested they did not have to do that.

But they finished up in short order, and then they went for coffee and cake.

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