The veterans invited to the first "Bring a Veteran to School Day" Thursday at Waverly Park Elementary School in East Rockaway represented a living wave of military history, from those who served in World War II to some who remain on active duty.
They shared their stories with students throughout the day, and even brought along service mementos that included everything from military helmets and medals to a model version of an Air Force plane flown by a Rockville Centre vet.
"It's important so the people know now what Veterans Day is really about, and it is not just a day to do whatever you want," said fifth-grader Jeremy Flyer, 10. "It is a day to remember veterans."
The event at the school in the Lynbrook district was just one activity held in schools throughout Long Island in honor of Veterans Day Friday. Other scheduled events included the kickoff of a yearlong Veterans Appreciation program in the Hampton Bays Elementary School where a specific veteran will be honored. Bayport-Blue Point School District officials scheduled a presentation from an Iraq War veteran with a dog from America's Vet Dogs Group. And, Friday the Glen Cove High School "Big Red" marching band plans to march in the New York City Veteran's Day Parade.
At Waverly Park in the Lynbrook district, 13 veterans were invited by the school and they were applauded by students who held an assembly in the school gym where they presented the group with a yellow flower. The students sang "Proud to be an American" and then veterans visited individual classrooms.
Victoria Carroll, 9, a fourth- grader, said she learned it is not easy being in a war. And fellow fourth-grader Zachary Bernstein, 9, said he learned that when parachuting, make sure to open it after eight seconds.
"I think they are nice people," he said of the veterans. "And I thanked them for serving our country."
World War II veteran Vincent Aquilino, 88, told about traveling to Europe with thousands of other troops on the Queen Mary. A soldier who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and in the second wave of D-Day at Normandy Beach, he explained what an explosive German water mine was and brought along his original canteen and jacket.
Kimberly Bentley, 27, who served as a captain in the Air Force, said how she helped out in schools in Afghanistan when she served there from 2008 to 2009.
The school also honored one of its own: head custodian Jim Locke, 66, who served in the Navy in Vietnam. Thursday, he held a yellow rose that the children had given him.
"That's kind of cool," he said. "This is the first time I have been to a veterans event in this school. They found out I was a veteran and here I am . . . I think it's great."