20th annual Veterans Appreciation Luncheon organized for Nov. 8

Photo by Bobbie Foust

A fourth grade student at Lyon Elementary School presents the colors at last year's Veterans Appreciation Luncheon and Program.

This time of year means something special in Lyon County -- the Veterans Appreciation Luncheon and Program is nearing. This year marks the 20th anniversary for the event that honors area veterans and active military. The luncheon for veterans and their spouses will begin at 11 a.m. Nov. 8 at the Lyon County High School gymnasium.

At noon, the public is invited to join the old warriors and their younger colleagues for a patriotic program presented by fourth graders under the direction of Terrie White, luncheon/program founder.

"We are having a special tribute for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and for our Vietnam veterans," White said, adding that "all our veterans are special. We've had special tributes in the past, and we may have a special guest - those details are still being worked out."

The event has grown steadily through the years, and White is hoping attendance will top last year's record of 350 veterans, their spouses, and active military personnel.

Former Gov. Steve Beshear, himself a veteran, attended in 2009; Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo came in 2011; and two general officers have attended in other years.

"We encourage any veteran or spouse of any deceased veteran to also attend," White said. "We don't think you will be sorry you came, and we think you will come away feeling a bit more appreciated."

Though White writes a different program each year, fourth graders always perform the patriotic readings and music, and they always include two familiar songs: "The Armed Forces Medley" and Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA." This year's program will open with these words from fourth graders:

"Because of the men and women in this room:

Very few, if any of us went to sleep last night fearing for our lives.

Few of us worry that we will be arrested for exercising our right to freedom of speech.

We have the freedom of religion.

We have the right to a fair trial.

There is freedom of the press.

Adults have the right to vote."

The luncheon and program originated in 2000 when White, then a fourth-grade teacher at Lyon Elementary School, was looking for a creative way to teach her students why the nation celebrates Veterans Day. She had seen her father, the late Ray Foust Jr., making sandwiches for an American Legion gathering. That inspired her to use a similar technique to teach her students to appreciate the sacrifices military veterans have made so they could live in freedom. She discussed ideas with her students and they decided to host a reception for area veterans in White's classroom. She announced the reception in the newspaper and 11 veterans, including her father, showed up. Students served cookies and punch to their guests and listened to the veterans' stories about their military service. The next year, the other fourth-grade classes joined the event.

"I started this program as a tribute to our veterans whose courage gave me the freedom to teach my students what it means to live in America," White said. "My dad, a proud Marine, taught us love of God and country, and I do this as a tribute to him and to all our veterans. I believe we must teach each generation that freedom is not free -- that our military veterans have paid a price for the free society we enjoy. I am so happy that our veterans' program is still going strong, and we are still honoring these men and women who put their lives on the line to ensure our American way of life. I have a great group of volunteers who have been here to work these many years."