NORWALK, Conn. Erik Albertson was wearing a modular tactical vest in the Fox Run Elementary School auditorium Friday as he described his experiences in Iraq in a way suitable for kindergartners and first graders: a "really crazy game of hide and seek."
They had questions: "Did someone step on you?" "Did you play football?" "Could they see your eyes?
Albertson's visit was part of the heightened Veterans Day observation at Norwalk Public Schools, made mandatory by the fact that school was in session on a holiday. The traditional Veterans Day moment of silence at 11 a.m. on the 11th day in the 11th month in the year 2011 was observed by all 11,000 students in the Norwalk Public schools. In addition, students in each of Norwalk's 19 schools had an opportunity to meet veterans and learn about military service.
"We typically educate the children on what Veterans Day means, but not to the level that we're doing today," said Fox Run Principal James Martinez. "We're really placing an emphasis and focus on the value and the meaning of today, an appreciation. They have lots of questions and we often don't provide them the venue and the opportunity to answer those questions."
Across town, students at Naramake Elementary walked past a social worker and a teacher wearing military fatigues as they made their way into school, one child stopping to exchange a salute with Mark Williams, a parent wearing his military uniform. Later, a veteran spoke to first graders.
Children at Cranbury Elementary School sang patriotic songs with veterans and learned about the American flag. At Nathan Hale Middle School, the kids prepared questions in their social studies classes and asked them of the eight military servicemen who visited for an assembly.
One question from a seventh grader: "What did you do when you got home?"
"I drove from North Carolina straight to Connecticut, the only person I cared about seeing was my mother," said U.S. Army Corp. Daniel Loris. "I was excited to get home and tell her how much I appreciate her support."
Fox Run students were writing letters to troops and watching videos in the only Veterans Day he could remember having school in session, Martinez said. "This is something that's going to be an expectation for every Veterans Day," he said. "We're going to be lining up with the activities."
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