WILLARD, Ohio-- It is one thing to say to a veteran, 'Thank you for your service,' but it's another thing to actually show them just what that service means to your community.
They've had Veteran’s Day programs at Willard High School before, but nothing like this.
More than 1,700 students from preschool to high school wanted to make this day something to remember.
Thousands of men and women from the Willard area -- from WWI to Afghanistan and Iraq--have served in the military.
That's a lot for a small town to give and each and every veteran's journey, while personal, is also history and deserves to be shared.
“It's important that the kids have a firsthand experience, with what they’re learning in their textbooks and reading about, to actually be able to shake the hand of the people who made that history is a life-changing experience," Willard High School teacher and event organizer, Courtney Carnahan, said.
Each veteran received a small gift as a thank you, delivered personally by a team of students.
But some presents don't come in boxes. They can come from song and music; they can come from words to live by.
“I want to thank you for your service, continue to serve; you may not be in uniform, but I’m asking you still stand up and represent the best qualities of this country," Huron County sheriff and Navy Cross recipient, Todd Corbin, told the crowd of more than 200 veterans and their families.
But the best present these veterans received is the chance to see just how much their community cares.
“They was all so attentive, so thankful," Vietnam veteran, Ron Martin, said.
“I got chills when I saw all the kids here and them standing and clapping; it was really something," Navy veteran, Lloyd Holona, said.
In a town like Willard, just about everybody knows someone who served.
And through all the applause and handshakes it's nice to know that this is a sentiment that will last more than just one day, because people do care and saying thank you for your service really does mean something.
“A lot of time went into this. I want to thank the community of Willard and the whole school system for everything they've done for us veterans," Vietnam veteran, James Alt, said.
Organizers say they hope to have a salute to veterans like this at the school every year.
They say you can’t say thank you to veterans enough for their service.