SHELBY -- When it comes to Veterans Day observances, this year's will be a memorable one for Shelby Middle School students.
Due to COVID-19 precautions, the 2020 event, held on Wednesday, Nov. 11, was shifted outdoors as a drive-thru meal event in which students served lunches to veterans in vehicles outside the school.
Featuring 50 vehicles escorted by Shelby fire and police, the veterans were welcomed in style, complete with patriotic music performed by seventh and eighth-grade band students and large flags that featured the branches of the U.S. military.
"It was awesome," Shelby Middle School Principal Barb Green said as the event concluded. "It was so nice to see all of the veterans be able to come and for the students to see their faces, to be able to thank them. Just a really nice way to recognize our veterans and the service they have provided for all of us."
Among those attending was veteran John Kinton, a retired principal at the former Central school in Shelby.
He described the middle school event as "very nicely done."
"The kids were out there with the signs, decorations that they had made themselves, waving flags, thanking the veterans as they drove through the driveway with the students on both sides and the band was playing the entire time," Kinton said in recalling the scene where lunches in containers were distributed.
"For me I always get sentimental because this is one place where patriotism starts outside of the house, and it's in the schools," he said. "Getting the kids all together for a reason to salute the veterans, I think that is very rewarding to the veterans."
"Today was a very patriotic day," Kinton added.
Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, the veterans needed to stay in their vehicles as the lunches were distributed in front of the school.
"We wanted to keep everybody safe, the students, and course, our veterans, so keeping them in their vehicles was really the best way that we could recognize them," Principal Green said. "And it was so nice for them to see all of the students while keeping a safe distance."
Much planning went into the Veterans Day event full of patriotism, American flags and energy.
"The eighth-grade team of teachers and our two secretaries, Karen Harvey and Cindy Swigart, put in many hours along with the band and the art teacher in making signs and things like that," Green said. "A lot of time was spent but well-spent. Just a really nice tribute."
Karsen Homan, an eighth-grade student, was pleased with how the event unfolded.
"It was a very good representation of our school, and it was a very fun event to have all together," he said.
Homan was asked what stood out. "Just how cool, how it was to see everybody drive through and to have this moment of being able to thank them for what they have done for our country..."
Alyssa Niese, an eighth-grader, was dressed up in a Statue of Liberty ceremonial outfit during the patriotic event.
"We made posters so we could honor them," she said in describing student efforts to pay tribute to the veterans. "We brought in money for their lunches and made the signs."
Among the veterans honored was Shelby Police Officer Keith Swisher, who in a cruiser, helped lead the procession of veterans' vehicles.
"It was fantastic," Swisher said. "Due to the COVID situation that is going on right now, we have to find other ways to celebrate Veterans Day and that's honor those who have served and currently serve and whatever we can do possible to make it happen. That is what we did today."
As a veteran, he was treated to lunch.
"I am thankful for the Shelby City Schools and the lunches they provided today," added Swisher, who is the district's school resource officer and D.A.R.E. officer. "They were delicious."
Riding in the Shelby fire truck in the procession was Shelby firefighter Zachary Gwirtz, also a member of the Air National Guard.
"It went well," he said of the middle school's event. "It was really neat. I saw my son. My son is in the middle school. That was pretty neat, pretty special."
Gwirtz also spotted the students' personalized signs with the veterans' names, honoring the veterans.
"I caught a couple of names I recognized," he added. "That was pretty cool."
The school's Harvey said that kitchen staff prepared the meals that included turkey wraps, chips and cookies.
"We have over 50 veterans who RSVP'D, but a lot of them have family with them so we are expecting to serve around 100 people today," Harvey said as students prepared to greet the veterans.
World War II veteran Charles Young of Shelby was among them.
"It was really neat," Young said, noting that in past years prior to COVID-19, the Veterans Day event was inside the school.
"They had it really laid out well," he said of the 2020 event. "All of the kids were standing out there. I even recognized a few of them as I went by."
"They put on a good show," Young added. "And a good lunch."