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DECATUR — At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the guns of World War I were silenced and an armistice, or temporary cease to hostilities, was declared between the Allied Nations and the Central Powers, led by Germany.

Though the Treaty of Versailles was not signed until June 28, 1919, Armistice Day, now known as Veterans Day in the United States, continues to be a celebration, first of the end of World War I, and now as a day to honor all veterans. The war lasted four years, and total military and civilian dead and wounded have been estimated at 40 million people.

Several area schools marked Veterans Day, which falls on a Sunday this year, with Friday events, while others will be doing so Monday. The official federal holiday is on Monday.

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Second grader Braden Vannier tries on a Vietnam War-era steel pot helmet that a veteran showed the class. 

At Decatur Christian School on Friday morning, students and their families, including a large number of veterans, gathered to honor all veterans, but particularly to remember that day 100 years ago.

“The main drawback is the lack of baths,” read Logan Brown, a high school student dressed in his Boy Scout uniform, from a letter sent home from a soldier. “This Army life is good for me. We're outdoors all day long in the fresh air in this beautiful country.”

In contrast, Ben Kirby read a letter in which the soldier talked about being in the trenches, with mud and water up to his chest, yet no one dared raise their head above the edge of the trench for fear of getting shot.

“At times, there's no noise but the squealing of rats, some as large as cats,” the soldier wrote.

The assembly featured a slideshow honoring relatives of students and staff who had served, with more than 60 veterans included, and administrator Brian Minott urged anyone who wanted to be included to get photos to him to be added for next year.

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Second grader Zachary Smith sits with his grandfather, U.S. Marine Corps. Veteran Phillip Niebrugge, as they go with his father, Army Veteran Troy Smith, to his classroom during Veteran’s Day activities at Mount Zion Grade School Friday afternoon. More photos at herald-review.com

At Mount Zion Grade School's annual Veterans Day event, the gym was packed with family, and veterans were given seats of honor on the gym floor. Each veteran stood, if he or she was able, identified the child who invited them and which branch of the military they had served. Traditionally, second-graders invite a veteran from their family, and in the case of Zachary Smith, four.

Zachary's grandfathers Phil Niebrugge, a Marine veteran, and Larry Smith, who served in the Army, attended along with Zachary's father, Troy Smith, an Army veteran of Desert Storm and Zachary's sister, Kylie Smith, who is serving in the National Guard. Military service is a family tradition.

“My brother served, too,” Troy Smith said. “But he lives three hours away and couldn't be here.”

Zachary, wearing his Scout uniform, rode in Niebrugge's lap as the family headed to the classroom for snacks. The children whose families attended the event could leave with them following the classroom activities.


Mount Zion second-graders celebrate veterans

Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Herald & Review.

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