Day of Thanks: Thayer Central joins public schools across the state to honor Vets

Day of Thanks: Thayer Central joins public schools across the state to honor Vets

By Tyler Dahlgren

Communications Specialist, NCSA


Public schools throughout the state banded together on Friday to show their appreciation for those that have served in the United States military.

Across Nebraska, students from kindergarten to junior high to the brink of graduation joined together to say thanks with special Veterans Day programs.

In the gymnasium at Thayer Central High School, located in Hebron, students honored about 100 veterans in attendance through song, a special program from 2nd-5th graders titled “The Important Thing about Veterans”, and several other nods to those that served, and those that gave the ultimate sacrifice.

In all, the program lasted around 70 minutes.

“The commitment that these veterans made, their sacrifice in time, their travelling away and being gone for years from loved ones and families, risking it all for their country,” Thayer Central Superintendent Drew Harris said. “For these kids to hear stories from veterans about the commitments and sacrifices they made makes it all come to life for the kids.”

After senior Ryan Koch had finished his rendition of “TAPS”, and after Student Council President Collin Fink had eloquently expressed the student body’s respect and admiration, the Student Council hosted a reception for veterans, their “special students” and family members in the cafeteria.

“This is a learning experience for the students, to get a better sense of the commitment and sacrifices the veterans made,” Harris said. “The kids get a chance to serve them, and also to understand that it’s their dedication that allows for many of the freedoms we have.”

The program has evolved in the 10 years since Harris, whose son, Cole, serves in the Air Force, became superintendent. One of the unique components of Thayer Central’s production is its inclusiveness. Children, from the time they are kindergarteners, grow up a part of the program.

“I think it’s great that those young kids get involved, and it makes it a true K-12 endeavor,” Harris said. “It makes it that much more meaningful for those kids throughout the years that they’re here, and throughout their lifetimes, too.”

While it’s difficult to fully grasp the magnitude of those sacrifices, honoring does lead to a better understanding. A billboard in the lobby at Thayer Central is filled with photos and brief stories of all the veterans related to Thayer Central students and staff.

“It’s amazing how many kids you’ll see standing in front of the board reading those stories and looking at those photo,” Harris said. “I think it means a lot to these kids that can honor their veterans for their service.”

Veterans weren’t the only ones being celebrated on Friday. Thayer Central teacher Anne Heitmann was recognized for being named the 2015-16 Nebraska American Legion Association Middle School Teacher of the Year. Heitmann spearheaded a fundraising opportunity that raised over $8,000 for Operation Airlift, which flies Vietnam veterans to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

The highlight of the program, Harris said, was the presentation of 13 “Quilts of Valor”, a powerful moment for the approximately 650 people in attendance. Close behind was an interaction Harris had with a veteran while coordinating traffic in the parking lot beforehand.

“He came up and said ‘I think every veteran around here appreciates that you do this every year to this magnitude,’” Harris said.

What the veteran said next could be said for everyone in the gymnasium, and across the state of Nebraska, on a day that homage is paid to the ones Americans admire the most.

“It’s a really special day for us.”