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Middle schoolers honor, laugh with vets

November 10, 2018

La PORTE – Kesling Middle School hosted a Veteran’s Day celebration Friday, allowing kids to share stories and gifts with a group of vets who had a few stories of their own.

The ceremony started with sixth-graders giving personal thoughts about veterans and their service.

“Today, I have the honor of talking to our great veterans, who have risked their lives to protect our great country,” Hunter Quadlin said. “I’m thankful for all veterans for their services to America.

“I live with a veteran, my Dad. He is a Marine who fought for us after we were attacked at the twin towers in Operation Iraqi Freedom,” he said.

Kaitlyn Wiseman said if not for vets, “I couldn’t wear the clothes I wanted to, or maybe even go to school.

“Veterans go out and fight for our country, and some people don’t show enough appreciation. If our veterans were not here, how would life be? Would our flag still be flying? Our lives would not be the same.”

The veterans in attendance included a motorcycle group called The Wall Gang. These vets of the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan drive across the country on a 21-day ride encompassing about 6,800 miles.

Their mission is to stop at veterans’ homes and show the residents they are not forgotten.

“Head Dog,” leader of the Wall Gang, said, “Some vets don’t get visitors at all, and they are excited when we roll up. We want to show them they are not forgotten.”

He said, “Vets have a brotherhood that is uncanny. We are there to support them and give comfort, and show them that they are not forgotten, that is our main mission.”

The Wall Gang also takes part in community service projects, such as making ramps for wheelchair-bound veterans who may not be able to afford or make their own.

They also strive to raise awareness of the POW MIA issue, as there are still veterans classified as prisoners of war or missing, Head Dog said.

A slideshow of pictures from the group’s trip, included one regular stop in Washington, D.C. to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The group was given the honor of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The veterans then answered questions from the students, some funny, some somber.

“Did you ever go to Hawaii?” was the first question asked. One veteran answered, “No, but I’m going this February,” to laughs and applause from students.

Another student asked, “What kind of motorcycle do you ride?”

Head Dog answered, “A Harley Davidson, of course,” again to laughter and applause.

The question, “What is the food like?” drew laughter from the veterans.

“Well in the Air Force you get steak and lobster, but the rest of us ate MREs [Meals Ready to Eat] everyday,” one vet responded.

He showed the students what an MRE looks like, saying, “This is one of the better ones. It’s got spaghetti in it with meat sauce.”

Head Dog said his favorite MRE was chili, and the worst he could think of was fried eggs and ham in a bag.

After the questions, students presented gifts to the veterans, including 25 blankets, gift bags of supplies like toiletries and toothpaste, board games, and Christmas ornaments.

The ceremony was designed to show the younger generation that veterans are special people, many of whom have overcome tremendous hardships, and they should be honored for their service and sacrifice. And the way they can laugh about things such as MREs showed they are people, too.

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