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Monroe celebrates veterans in families

Norman Transcript - 11/11/2017

Nov. 11--Monroe Elementary students celebrated their community's veterans Friday morning with songs, essays and a parade through the school's hallways.

Students were asked to invite their veteran family members to come and take part in the celebration, as well.

"We had veterans from every branch of the service," Monroe Principal Lori Connery said.

She said teachers make sure students understand what it means to be veteran and what it means to serve their country. Students also learn that there are different branches of the military.

"It is a time to learn, but it is also a time the celebrate and to honor. Honor is something we focus on because it is important for us to take time to honor the people who served," Connery said.

Nicholas Birdhead has attended Monroe's Veterans Day celebrations for three years. The retired Army specialist has a daughter in second grade and kindergarten.

"Oh, they love it. It is the best thing ever. They get to see us for the morning and hang out for a little bit," Birdhead said.

His favorite part of the event is seeing how excited each student is to see and spend time with the veterans in their family.

Birdhead said a lot of students might not know their classmates also have parents, grandparents or other family members who have served because it isn't something people often bring up.

"Growing up, I didn't really see a whole lot of that in school. I saw it with my family, not at school, so I'm happy that they recognize that at this school because I think that is important," Birdhead said.

While those who join the military now are volunteers, Birdhead said it is important to honor and appreciate the service of veterans who were drafted.

Both sides of his family and his wife's family also have served in the military for multiple generations.

"Native Americans have always volunteered to serve in the military," Birdhead said. "Even before Native Americans were considered citizens of the United States, they were volunteering to go overseas and serve because they were from this country. A lot of people don't know that."

He said most of the Native Americans he meets have either served themselves or a member of their immediate family has served.

"To me, it is tradition. I always knew I would serve in the military. My great-grandfather, my grandfather, my dad, my brother, two of my sisters, multiple aunts, uncles and cousins have all served in the military," Birdhead said.

Retired Navy third class engine-man Terry O'Dea has been attending the Monroe celebration for a few years. One of his granddaughters is in third grade at Monroe and another attended the elementary school before moving on to Alcott Middle School.

His younger granddaughter called him the night before and asked him to take part in the celebration.

"Then I had to get my uniform out and I had to make it fit. I'm still trying not to take too deep of breaths," O'Dea said, jokingly. "Then I had to remember how to tie this tie again. I haven't done one these in over 50 years."

Just to make sure he had it right, O'Dea said he watched a video on YouTube the night before.

"I've been fortunate enough to be up here for every veterans event Monroe puts on, and they always do a fantastic job," O'Dea said.

His favorite part of the program is watching the slideshow and getting to stand with his fellow veterans when each branch's song is played.

"It has grown every year, especially the PowerPoint. I think this was the biggest we have had," Connery said. "I think my favorite part of the event is the slideshow because we just take a moment and honor those heroes."

Over 150 veterans, both living and now passed away, were represented in the slideshow. Each was submitted with information about their service and a picture by Monroe students and faculty.

This year's slideshow had parents, children, uncles and aunts currently serving to one great-grandparent who served in the Spanish American War.

"That is quite a connection with the Monroe community," O'Dea said.

Connery said for many of the children at the school, their favorite part of the Veterans Day celebration is the hallway parade. Students line the hallway waving hand-colored flags while the community veterans and their family members make their way from the library to the gym.

O'Dea will take part in the Veterans Day Ceremony at Reaves Park on Sunday. He said he wants to see the park full of people as they listen to vets from three conflicts talk about their service and their comrades.

O'Dea said people would enjoy the military fly-over and the classic car show, as well.

"There are a lot of people who don't really talk about Veterans Day," O'Dea said. "It is really something they should come out and see, and they'll see what veterans are all about."

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(c)2017 The Norman Transcript (Norman, Okla.)

Visit The Norman Transcript (Norman, Okla.) at www.normantranscript.com

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