Renee Blue has made it a priority to thank veterans for their service. The tables were turned on her last week when a parent of a student in the kindergarten class she teaches at Rum River Elementary School thanked her for the Veterans Day program she has organized at the school for the past two years.
Blue received an American flag that had flown over Camp Virginia in Kuwait during class May 30. She thought that Ellen Perrault, District 11 communications specialist, was in her classroom with a video camera to ask students what their summer plans are.
She heard the door open and close behind her and a group of people, including the parents of her student Izabella, were standing by the door. She saw they were carrying an American flag in a case. She was speechless for a moment before she asked her class to sing “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”
Blue was very modest about what she does even though 92 veterans were able to be individually recognized and applauded at last year’s Veterans Day ceremony. There were 16 veterans at the 2010 ceremony. All veterans are related to a current student at the school.
“I still feel like I don’t do that much compared to them,” Blue said.
Mark Madden served in the U.S. Air Force from 1983 to 1988, reaching the rank of sergeant. He can appreciate that Blue never asked for recognition because he and many other veterans are usually hesitant to be publicly thanked.
Madden was hesitant to come to the Rum River Veterans Day ceremony in 2010, but he decided to come with his father Jim Madden, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. He was so impressed by the ceremony that he volunteered to assist with the 2011 Veterans Day ceremony.
“As a veteran, I’m amazed at the time and energy she puts into this,” Madden said.
It was important to Madden that Blue be recognized for these efforts so he asked a colleague who is a reservist if he could help find an American flag to give to Blue. His co-worker talked to a contact with the Red Bulls of the Minnesota National Guard and was able to get a flag that had flown over a base in Kuwait.
While it is special for Madden to see veterans from the World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and first Gulf War generations come to the school, seeing the whole ceremony unfold is what means the most to him.
The whole school comes to the ceremony and sings patriotic songs for the veterans. Students with veterans in the family give a rose to their parent or grandparent. This past year, a parent stationed at a base in California sent a video message to their children in the school.
Blue has also shared her story. Her father Ray Anderson was a World War II veteran. Her brother Paul Anderson was in the Vietnam War. Her brother Neal Anderson served in the military in the late 1970s.
A memory that sticks with Blue to this day is of the Minnesota National Guard coming into Fridley to help residents impacted by the 1965 tornado. Blue was a child then and remembers the National Guard protecting their neighborhood. Her mother was a local baker. She would bring donuts and coffee to the Guard members.
Blue said a lot of people forget that these National Guard responses to natural disasters are an important aspect of the military.
What matters to Blue is letting the young students know that the men and women of the military make it possible for them to enjoy freedom. Many are too young to understand what a veteran is, so this ceremony serves as a lesson for these children.
Blue recalled how one student asked what the military draft was after she shared that her brother Paul had been drafted to go to the Vietnam War.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org