RUSSELLVILLE - A parade of veterans from the community spanned eight decades Monday morning.
True to its name, the Veterans Recognition Day Assembly was attended by nearly 600 kindergarten through 12th-grade students in the Cole County R-1 School District and nearly 50 veterans and community members.
Each soldier, sailor, airman or Marine was escorted into the high school gymnasium while his name, branch of service and years served were read.
Although some big words and concepts might get missed, the importance of recognizing military service was not lost on Amy Schroer's first-grade class.
"They understand why they're here," Schroer said, referring to the bus ride from the elementary to the high school.
This year for the first time, her students wrote thank you letters for the Central Missouri Honor Flight participants. Schroer hopes to make that an annual class activity.
Susan Buckingham, who is the district's director of special services, was the guest speaker. A U.S. Army veteran, Buckingham also is wife of a career Army officer and mother of three active duty soldiers.
An annual tradition at the Russellville assembly is presenting select veterans with folded American flags.
As a bonus this year, a drawing from veterans in attendance gave Mike Nichols a special American flag, which had been flown over George Washington's home at Mount Vernon.
The Boys Scouts of America Troop 96 performed a flag-folding demonstration before delivering American flags to veterans Clete Heidbreder, Leon Benton and David Zumbehl.
"It's our part to honor veterans," said sophomore Sam Matheis.
The troop, which rechartered in 2004, also set out more than 100 flags along Route C, as it does for all patriotic holidays, said junior Clay Keller.
Benton, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1950-1977, attended Monday's assembly with his granddaughter Ashley Benton, a sophomore.
"I was so surprised to receive this flag," Benton said. "It's something I will cherish forever."