TWINSBURG — More than 600 Wilcox Primary School students in first grade, kindergarten and pre-school will sit down to lunch Nov. 9 with veterans and active duty military to honor them prior to Veterans Day.

The event began in 2003 when first grade teachers Shirley Browning and Michael Scolaro wanted their students to learn about what it meant to serve in the U. S. military. The event was extraordinarily successful and more than 130 active duty military and veterans are expected to attend the 15th annual event.

"It?s a day when students and staff can show their appreciation for those who have served in the military, learn about how to be a good citizen and what it means to be of service to the community," Browning said.

The day begins with several veterans raising the flag at a ceremony attended by all the school?s students and staff. Students recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing God Bless America.

"Twinsburg VFW Post 4929 provides flags for the children to hold," Browning said. "It’s quite a moving sight."

Students invite veterans who are family members or friends. Some area veterans are also matched up with students at the school. Lunch is held in the "mess hall,? which gives the youngsters and veterans a chance to talk informally. The veterans are asked to stand during lunch when the official song of their military branch is played, said Browning.

"These men and women stand tall and proud, providing examples to our many little ones of what duty and patriotism truly mean," Browning said.

Throughout the day, the veterans can meet in the "canteen" for coffee and conversation with each other. The school has been preparing for months for the event, with students creating decorations, cards and letters. Memorabilia from World War I and II, Korea and Vietnam are on display, as are the flags of all the military branches. Students have made stars with the names of family members who have served and yellow-ribbon cutouts honor those currently deployed.

The program is supported by a $250 grant from the Northeast Ohio Education Association as well as donations from area businesses, including George’s Donuts, Giant Eagle, Katie?s Cheesecakes and Floral Innovations. The Wilcox Primary School PTA also contributes to the cost of the lunches. Veterans have also donated to the event.

The program received the Ohio 2018 Purple Star Award, the 2014 NEOEA Community Service Award and the 2006 Ohio Best Service-Learning Project. Wilcox Primary School is one of five Twinsburg City School District schools recognized as an Ohio 2018 Purple Star Award School.

The Purple Star Award, a designation awarded to military-friendly schools, recognizes schools that show a major commitment to students and families connected to our nation’s military. 

Schedule of Events

• 8:30 a.m. — Veterans conduct formal flag raising attended by all students, who recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing God Bless America;

• 10:55 a.m.-1:10 p.m. — Veterans and students lunch in the school’s "mess hall" (lunch is divided into four periods, with veterans attending with their child sponsor — 12:40 p.m. is

projected to be largest group.

• All day — Veterans can gather throughout the day in the "canteen" to connect with fellow veterans.