JOHNSBURG – Standing at the front of the gym in James C. Bush Elementary School, Col. Curtis Ames recited the oath he swore when he joined the Marine Corps.
“I do that not for myself,” he said, “but to remind all of you what all the veterans in this room stood up and swore to do, support and defend the Constitution of the United States and protect all our freedoms.”
The Johnsburg resident was the guest speaker at the school’s Veterans Day ceremony, one of several events across the county at schools, churches, hospitals and American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts.
State Rep. Mike Tryon and Secretary of State Jesse White spoke at Crystal Lake South High School. American Legion Post 673 in Huntley hosted a hot buffet breakfast and had a screening of “Saving Private Ryan.”
The Woodstock Free Methodist Church handed out goodies.
These types of events weren’t nearly as common when Ames attended Bush Elementary from 1969 to 1972 – one of his daughters, Caroline, is now a third-grader at the school – so when he went through the different generations of veterans to stand, he started with Vietnam War veterans.
He wanted the veterans to walk away with “a happiness that people do understand and are giving them their due recognition for their sacrifices,” he said after the event.
The school started inviting veterans to the school four years ago, said Mary Alice Stone, a fourth-grade teacher and a member of the school’s Veterans Day committee.
This year more than 85 veterans attended, most of them the grandparents and parents of students.
The assembly has grown to include performances by students, including the singing of “God Bless America” and the reading of student-written poems and letters.
“This is very nice,” Ronald Branum said as he sat with his granddaughter, Emma Rung, in the school’s cafeteria. “I’ve been very impressed that they do these sort of things. ... I think it’s important for the veterans just that someone is acknowledging that you actually did something.”
Branum served during the Vietnam War era, finishing as a specialist fourth class with the 3rd Infantry Honor Guard at Arlington, Va.
Bush Elementary also sent care packages – each with an inspirational message on a 2-inch-by-2-inch square card that soldiers can put in their helmets – and the students also made beaded flag keychains for the veterans who attended the Monday ceremony.
Note to readers: This story has been edited since it initially published to correct the spelling of veteran Ronald Branum's name. The nametag he was wearing at the event contained an incorrect spelling of his last name.