It used to be common that schools took the day off for Veterans Day. That’s not so much the case anymore, however, as teachers and administrators want to make sure students realize and acknowledge the sacrifices veterans have made.

With that in mind former Riverside-Brookfield High School social studies teacher Bill Jirkovsky approached the administration with the idea of having students attend class on Veterans Day and learn what the day really meant, thus beginning the longstanding tradition at the school of a Veterans Day assembly and opportunities for students and veterans to interact directly.

Veterans are invited to the morning program, which begins with breakfast and is followed by an all-school assembly in the gym. The program includes presentation of the colors, a musical salute to all branches of the service performed by the band and choral groups. 

The veterans are asked to stand and be recognized as the song representing their branch is performed. This year, the speaker was Hal Burke, a veteran who happens to be a graduate of RBHS Class of 1960. 

After the assembly, veterans who had chosen to do so were escorted to classrooms where they related their experiences and answered questions. 

Members of the football team presented a check to be given to Hines Hospital and there are also plans for students to sign greeting cards which will be sent to different veterans’ groups. It was apparent by the end of the program that the students did learn what the day really means and the vets learned the students care for those who serve.

I also learned a few things. Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day in recognition of the official ending of World War 1 on Nov. 11, 1918. 

Don’t confuse the day with Memorial Day, which remembers those who died while serving. Veterans Day acknowledges all who have served, although recognizing either groups is acceptable on both days. Other countries honor the day in their own way. I guess that would be a way to say we are all in this together.

Thank you not only on this day, but every day to those who have chosen to serve our country and make it possible for the rest of us. You have earned the right for us to maintain our freedom.