COLUMBIA — Kindergartners entered the New Haven Elementary School gym Friday wearing red, white and blue with large paper quarters tied with string around their necks.
Their patriotism was one of the ways New Haven students paid tribute to veterans at the school's annual Veterans Day program, "We Remember You." About 50 to 60 parents, teachers and community members attended, including about 20 veterans.
Victoria Mongillo, the fifth-grade teacher who started the program 13 years ago, said it allows faculty to teach students about history, patriotism and respect.
"Students need to understand people are willing to put their lives on the line to protect us," Mongillo said.
Fifth-grader Brandon Goins, who held the U.S. Coast Guard flag at the beginning of the ceremony, said he has learned it's important to show respect for people who have fought for the country.
Crystal Tyus, who serves as a student advocate at New Haven and is the mother of a first-grader, said the program is all her daughter Carynton has talked about for the past couple of weeks.
The program began with a presentation of colors by New Haven students and two members of the Boone County Fire Protection District Color Guard. After the national anthem, students passed around a microphone, asking veterans to stand as the wars they fought in were called.
Terry Schoenhals, who has been home from Afghanistan since March, has been a member of the National Guard for nine years. He attended the program in uniform to watch his daughter Madison, a fifth-grader, and said it's nice to be home to attend programs such as this one.
Donald Neer, who fought in the Korean War, has attended the school's Veterans Day program for 10 years. He came this year to see his granddaughter, fifth-grader Ally Akyol. He said he knows the students come away with a lot of knowledge after working on the program.
Neer's wife, Anita, who has also attended the event for 10 years, said it's important for students to learn what it costs to have freedom.
Fifth-grader Brittany Coleman said that was one lesson she learned by participating in the program. "We're paying tribute to our nation, and when you do that, it shows respect for our country," she said.
The program included a choir of students who sang patriotic songs and recited "O Captain! My Captain!" The kindergartners sang "Whose Fine Face is on the Quarter" to the tune of "London Bridge is Falling Down" before reciting a series of facts about George Washington. The Rock Bridge High School cast of "Guys and Dolls" also made an appearance.
Veterans Day is Tuesday.