"I want to take the time to appreciate all you have done for our country. It means so much to me that you would take years out of your life and leave your family to fight for the freedom of the United States.
"My brother will soon be leaving for the Marines, so I will soon know the pain your family must be feeling. I know you must miss them dearly, but it's amazing what you have done for them.
"Our country needs you deeply and I know in the future you will be honored for your brave actions and service. I know you are risking a lot fighting away from the States, but this is why I wrote to all of you. Thank you so much.
Students from Saratoga Elementary School read letters like this one, thank you cards and poems in front of students, parents, grandparents, community members and veterans Tuesday, Nov. 8, as a part of the school's second annual Veterans Day assembly.
"Students need to know that Veterans Day is not just a day off," said Kim Struck, choir director at Saratoga.
With the hope that this event will continue in the years to come, Struck and the Saratoga staff invited the Morris Color Guard, veterans and community members to listen to the readings from students and to watch patriotic performances from the school choirs and band.
Principal Joe Zweeres said the assembly was also an opportunity to bring the community to the school.
"I think Morris is a pretty proud community as far as our military branches," he said.
The pride one Saratoga student has for veterans comes from the loss of an uncle during the Iraqi Freedom conflict in 2005.
Junior high student Kyle Overton shared his "Veterans We Know" social studies project just before his grandfather, Jerry Terando, addressed the audience, as well.
Overton read about his late uncle, Sgt. Josh Terando of Morris.
Josh was Grundy County's first fatality in the Iraqi Freedom conflict. He was shot by a sniper on Nov. 10, 2005, the day before Veterans Day in Iraq.
"World War I ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. 11-11-11," Jerry, Josh's father, said. "In 1954, Nov. 11 was changed to Veterans Day to honor all American veterans wherever and whenever they served."
Jerry said his son gave the ultimate and final sacrifice for America, and that is what Veterans Day is in remembrance of — the sacrifices made.
"Veterans are men and women of all ages. They have families. They go to work. They love sports, fishing and other activities. Some of them even love the Bears," Jerry said. "There's nothing that makes them different than everyone else, except the pride they feel for having served America and knowing they live in the greatest nation in the world."
He introduced the veterans of the Morris Color Guard and each were applauded by the Saratoga community for their service.
There is no school for Saratoga students on Friday, Nov. 11, so the kindergartners will honor the veterans during the school announcements Thursday morning with a song:
"Today is the day we celebrate our veterans
The men and women who fought for our great land
We'll raise our flags and hold a moment of silence
And we will carry poppies in our hands
Because we want to thank you for your service
You traveled far to keep us safe at home
You fought with pride and honor for our country
Our veterans, oh how we love you."
"Remember, you are America's future," Jerry said to the Saratoga students.