The official Veterans Day holiday has passed. But, as students of Hooper Avenue Elementary School in Toms River showed Tuesday, every day is a good time to thank our military men and women for their service to America.

Students at Hooper Avenue Elementary School learned first hand from the veterans that the price of freedom isn't free.

In the school's 10th annual event, veterans from various branches of the military were represented.

"We do a flag ceremony, (play) The Star-Spangled Banner...we start the presentation with that," explains Doug Hynoski, Fourth Grade teacher and co-organizer of the event.

"Then the kindergarten-through-grade-two students do a musical presentation, and this year we also had the band play patriotic songs saluting the branches of the military."

Students thanked the vets for their service with "The Grateful Song," then the folks who placed their lives on the line engaged in some classroom questions and answers.

"Having the veterans go into the classroom and talk to the children about their experiences...they will learn so much more from them then what we can teach them from a book," said Kindergarten teacher and co-organizer Karen Husenica.

"It's just something that we like to do each year, and I think it's a very worthwhile event for all."

The occasion symbolizes how respect for our veterans has changed dramatically since our troops returned home from Vietnam, for example, when many were shunned or abased.

Husenica adds this event they hold yearly is important to help remember all veterans.

"We need to make sure we teach our children history, as well as the sacrifice that has been made for them and their families," explains Husenica. "That's part of living in America."

Captain Robert Roma of the New Jersey Army National Guard says at these type of events he usually fields all kinds of questions from students, but he's more than happy to answer them.

"It just varies, it's all over the place," explains Roma. "The older kids ask one type, and the little ones want to know what you ate for lunch everyday."

While the questions usually vary, Roma adds, there is one message he shares with every student.

"Whenever I do presentations or talk to the kids, I have a lot of pictures of some of the most terrifying things I've ever been involved my life on my deployments," said Roma. "Yet in the midst of that terrifying moment were some of the funniest things I've ever seen in my life."

A 20-year military veteran, Roma adds that he was honored to be around veterans from various other wars and missions including Korea, Vietnam and World War II.

One fellow veteran in attendance, Tony Sarrecchia, who served as an M.P. in Panama, was also very pleased with the children's performance.

"I loved it, I think the kids were great with their singing and playing in the band," said Sarrecchia. "The questions that they asked were amazing."





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