The kids at Angel Oak Elementary have been waiting for this day all week.
Not because it's Friday, but because it's Veterans Day.
Today, the school is going to put on its own Veterans Day parade, complete with the St. Johns High marching band and ROTC. The kids have decorated banners that say "We support our troops" and made their own flags. One 5th grader in Grace Dinces' class even used his allowance to buy a big flag just for the parade.
Since the Charleston County School Board decided to cancel the Veterans Day holiday -- it's now a make-up day -- all schools in the district have incorporated educational programs about the U.S. military into their classrooms. At Angel Oak, third grade teacher and Air Force veteran Kevin Rokey put together a really great program that included visits from actual veterans on Thursday.
"We thought it would be great exposure for the kids," Rokey says.
All this adds up to sea island kids learning a lot of things they otherwise might never know.
On Thursday morning, Staff Sgt. Bill Elliott of the 14th Airlift Squadron had a group of 1st and 2nd graders stirred into a frenzy.
He was showing them video of an air drop over Afghanistan, shot from the open door of the C-17 where he serves as a loadmaster. As the supply crates fell out of the open cargo door, their parachutes opened and the kids yelled that they looked just like jellyfish.
He showed them his helmet, let them wear it, and answered questions about if he ever had been shot at (yes), if he had a best friend (yes) and if he ever jumped out of the plane.
"I will never jump out of a perfectly good aircraft," Elliott joked.
Elliott, 31, is a veteran of the second Gulf war and the Afghanistan conflict, and he later explained to a group of 5th graders why he joined the Air Force.
"The big reason I joined the military is because of Sept. 11, because I want to help make sure that never happens again," Elliott said. "But I also joined because I come from a military family. My dad was in the Navy for 32 years, and my grandfather was in the Navy in World War II."
That is a lesson school kids definitely need to learn.
The right call
There were a half-dozen other military personnel talking to kids at Angel Oak on Thursday, each one putting a face to that generic term "the troops."
These are real folks who were able to tell kids exactly what they do for this country and why.
And now kids all across Charleston County probably have a much better idea of why exactly this country sets aside a day to honor the men and women who serve this country in the military.
If the kids had today off, they would probably be watching Spongebob or playing video games. Instead, they learned an important lesson about America.
Canceling the Veterans Day holiday may be the best decision the school board has made in a long time.