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Little Hocking Elementary School honors veterans

Army veteran Staff Sgt. David Cook salutes the flag as his daughter Emily, a Little Hocking Elementary School student, watches. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

LITTLE HOCKING — Robert Ribble, 92, lined up with the rest of the veterans, active duty military personnel and their friends and family to file into the gymnasium at Little Hocking Elementary School.

As part of the school’s annual Veterans Day program, he and his fellow guests, more than 100 of them, had eaten breakfast and were headed in the gym for the program.

Ribble, who lives in the small crossroads community of Hackney in Morgan County, was one of a handful of World War II veterans at the event Wednesday. He has a great-grandson, Oliver Evans, at the school.

“I was with the Army Air Corps at Guam Beach,” he said. “I was 18 years old and worked on the aircraft engines.”

Ribble is member of an elite and diminishing group – only 2.5 percent of the 16 million Americans who served in that war remain alive.

Navy veteran Charlie Cramlet carries his granddaughter, 2-year-old Ainsley Cramlet, after speaking to a Veterans Day assembly at Little Hocking Elementary School Wednesday. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

Regarding his service, Ribble said, “It was something our generation did, that was just the way it was.”

The children sang “It’s a Grand Old Flag” as the guests walked in and were seated around two walls, with children on the floor and a bank of bleachers.

Principal Robin Carter, dressed in an Eisenhower jacket she got from her father, a Korean War era Army vet, welcomed everyone and offered a history of Veterans Day.

Music teacher Keith Richards noted that the day’s event would be the last in the old building – Warren Local Schools will have completed a new, consolidated elementary school near Vincent by this time next year.

As part of the effort to honor the nation’s military, he said, students had assembled care packages for service members overseas.

Veterans stand to be recognized in the gymnasium at Little Hocking Elementary School. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

Army Staff Sgt. Matt Maupin told the assembly the Yellow Ribbon movement began in 2004 during the Iraq war when the parents of a missing soldier began sending packages of goods to individual service personnel in Iraq, each including a note requesting them to pray for their son’s recovery.

Although his remains were found a few months later, the care package movement continued, and 15 years later more than 30,000 of the boxes have been sent.

Ohio National Guard Staff Sgt. Adam Schaad, who served in Iraq during 2017, said he knows from experience that the packages are important.

“They show the love of the people we’re fighting for,” he said. “It’s a reminder that good people are supporting us, that we’re not alone.”

The packages contain an array of goods, from sweet treats to soap and shampoo. Each homeroom at the school assembled one box containing 117 items, Carter said.

Army Air Corps World War II veteran Robert Ribble, 92, walks into the gymnasium at Little Hocking Elementary School. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

Little Hocking alumnus Matt Eickert, now a senior at the Washington County Career Center and just out of basic training for the Army National Guard, offered advice to the students.

“Always try to be different, make new friends while you can,” he said. “Teamwork is a big responsibility, so if you see someone struggling, try to help them … if you get a chance to do something different, try it. I gave up my last summer in high school to do something to give back, all of these veterans gave up time with their families.”

Charlie Cramlet, who served in the Navy from 1971-76 and did duty in Vietnam, told the children to look to their futures and appreciate the gifts they have.

“I went to a country I knew nothing about, and I saw kids just like you,” he said. “There was only one big difference: opportunity. You live where you can chase your dreams, they were just after survival.”

Making a shallow cup with one hand, he said, “This is the amount of rice they had, all they had to eat for one day.”

Navy veteran Steve Keller talks to a group of first-graders in Abby Cole’s class at Little Hocking Elementary School. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

The children sang “Thank You, Soldier” to end the program and returned to class, where small groups of the veterans spoke to them and answered their questions.

The children asked them what kind of food they got in the military, where they had traveled, what sort of equipment they used, and whether they were allowed to keep pets.

Most said no pets were allowed in places they served, to which one student remarked, “Well, that’s not fair.”

Speaking outside her classroom after the event, fourth-grader Kaitlynn Baughman said her grandfather had been in the military.

“The school wants to help the veterans, and they help people, too. They see kids without toys and get some for them,” she said.

Third-grader Eli Reynolds said he appreciates their efforts.

“I like how they serve our country, how they go to other countries to defend our freedom, risk their lives,” he said.

Carter said the day, an organizational effort that requires months and countless volunteer hours, was bittersweet because the building will close at the end of this school year.

“We’re going to carry on these traditions in the new building,” she said.

Michael Kelly can be reached at mkelly@mariettatimes.com.

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