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Veterans honored at Geneva middle schools

Army veteran Duane Jones hugs his daughter, Isabel, Friday during a service for Veteran's Day at Geneva Middle School North.
Army veteran Duane Jones hugs his daughter, Isabel, Friday during a service for Veteran's Day at Geneva Middle School North.

GENEVA – The sacrifices of military men and women aren’t lost on students at Geneva Middle School North.

Izzy Goodrich said she has seen her uncle only three times in her life because he joined the military 18 years ago. She said he couldn’t attend Friday’s ceremony because he was serving in Afghanistan.

Chloe Rzeppa said her grandfather, whom she called “papa,” fought during Pearl Harbor and left the military after six years because he missed his family.

“My papa’s service is important because every soldier makes a difference,” she said during the 16th annual Veterans Day ceremony.

The ceremony included a photo slideshow of students’ and employees’ military family members and ended with an opportunity for students to ask veterans questions about their military experiences.

Floyd Brown and his wife, Shirley, fielded questions Friday. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1955 to 1959.

When one student asked what soldiers missed the most while serving, Shirley Brown said her husband had to be away from his family from the time their baby was 3 months to 2 years old.

“It’s really a nice program they put together,” she said after the ceremony. “Maybe it makes some kids think of what generations before them had to go through.”

Another student asked veterans whether everyone should serve in the military at some point in their lives. Veteran Gary Johnson, who served in the Marine Corps from 1986 to 1989, weighed in.

“Yes, without a doubt,” he said. “It shapes who you are being in the military. You can’t get it anywhere else.”

Capt. Van Stone, Friday’s keynote speaker, said it’s now up to the younger generation to serve and protect the country. He said there’s one reason veterans are celebrated on Nov. 11.

“It’s a day for our nation to say thank you to the most deserving people in the entire world.”

Ceremonies also took place at Geneva Middle School South.

Geneva school board member Kelly Nowak said she was proud of the students and staff for putting on the Veterans Day community event every year.

“It’s an extraordinary community event,” Nowak said. “It always makes me cry. I’m so grateful for the people we have in this community who have given so much to us.”

Debra Meyer, her husband, David, who is in the Air National Guard and her grandfather, Nick Theis of Orland Park, a Korean War vet, all praised the presentation.

“It was beautiful – as usual the kids do a beautiful job,” Debra Meyer said. “It’s an important part of being an American – to appreciate this day and to hold events like this, so we don’t forget. It should be more than once a year.”

• Kane County Chronicle reporter Brenda Schory contributed to this report.

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