Students from Lemonweir Elementary School, led by their principle, teachers and chaperones, took part in a parade walk around the Tomah VA Medical Center grounds on Nov. 13, in honor of Veterans Day.
More than 300 students gathered in front of the main administration building at the Tomah VA to release red, white and blue balloons in the air before parading the grounds.
The students and faculty then followed the Tomah VA fire truck in front of the patient buildings to show awaiting Veterans appreciation for their service.
The first to fifth grade students carried patriot signs and flags during the parade. The students also carried hand-made cards that were given to Veterans, while they were stopping to shake hands and say thanks.
"The Veterans thought it was awesome," said Debbie Lindley, a voluntary service specialist at the Tomah VA. "The veterans in front of their buildings really enjoyed when the kids walked by singing for them. (The veterans) were all smiles when the kids were hollering to them and some even hollered thank yous back to the kids. I can’t say enough about how wonderful the kids were. These kids took this to heart with all the banners they made. It was so touching."
The Tomah VA and Lemonweir School have never had a parade walk before, but according to Lemonweir Elementary Principle Nicki Pope, the parade walk has the potential to be the first of many events in the future.
"I've had people who have worked here 20 years who have said we should have been doing this 20 years ago," said Pope. "It was a long way around, so we had a lot of tired kids, but we've had a lot of positive response to this. The kids were happy to see everyone and glad they could give out the cards they had made. I had a parent email to tell me their kid talked about it all night. We definitely want to visit again."
Pope, an Army Veteran, said she came up with the idea because she wanted to honor Veterans in a different way.
"I was thinking of something we could do that would be different than the typical ceremony," said Pope. "I thought the VA is so close, and we should partner with them.
Pope said she teamed up with Heather Linenberg, also from Lemonweir Elementary, to coordinate with the VA and work out the details of the event.
"We would really like to do things in the future with the VA," said Pope. "It was a wonderful experience.