Nearly 30 veterans were guests of Mount Airy Middle school Monday morning for a Veterans Day breakfast in their honor.

In the days leading up to the event, students collected interviews with veterans, wrote thank-you cards and put together a display of artifacts stretching from World War II to today.


The Student Government Association kids greeted the guests as they arrived and gave the veterans thank-you cards made by students.

Cafeteria staff from the school prepared food for the breakfast and in the beginning, student trumpeters played “Taps” and an orchestra quintet played “God Bless America.”

Two students read poems in honor of the guests and all United States veterans.

“Though we may not know each name/ We thank all veterans just the same,“ read the poem that Juanita Coursar-Hoke recited.

Afterward, she rejoined her parents, who have both served. Her mother Yvette Coursar is retired Air Force and her father Patrick Hoke is still active in the Army.

When Juanita was in elementary school, both visited and spoke to her class. Hoke said it was valuable to get to talk to young people.

“A lot of times there’s a disconnect,” he said

Penny Snader, a sixth-grade humanities teacher who helped organize the activities, said that helping to personalize veterans was important because, “we always want to keep them grounded with understanding of what’s going on in their own community and still giving back to their community. It’s just a human face.”

For Mary Chambers, the breakfast was the first time she saw a family artifact, a framed photo of her grandfather, Peter Chambers, at age 17 when he joined the Army in 1949, displayed with his original dog tags.

Chambers himself, who served from 1949-52, himself traveled up from Prince George’s County so they could go to the breakfast together, along with her father and her great-uncle, who also served in the Army.

As the families made their way out from the breakfast, most stopped by the artifact display under glass near the main entrance. Featuring a collection of items borrowed from family members of staff and students, creating this display has been a Veterans Day tradition at the school for about a decade.

Over the years, the artifacts students bring have varied from helmets worn in war to a journal from World War II, to uniform pieces and medals, to a shovel that dug foxholes.

“We’ve had a mess kit that included food actually. Chocolate and various other, I guess durable food supplies. That was actually from from a World War II mess kit, which was kind of neat," Alexa Andersen-Proetorius, social studies department chair, said. "We’ve had Army and Navy nurse outfits that have been brought in through the years. ... We had a flag that flew at the Pentagon brought in here, which was really special. That was commemorating, actually, September 11.”

Upstairs, a display featured about 80 short interviews that students did with family or community members who are veterans. Each came with a photo.


All of the activities together are, “just a different variation to get them to understand and appreciate their veterans that are in the community,” Snader said. “We want to show our appreciation and ... let that trickle down to [the kids].”

In the classroom, the artifacts and interviews with veterans help the students learn about primary sources.

“We talked about the importance of finding reliable and accurate sources and the different types of sources that can provide information about our past, and how those sources have helped to influence the current state of affairs,” Andersen-Proetorius said.