Etna Road Elementary School students welcomed veterans to the school Nov. 10 for a new Veterans Day program.

All the school's classes -- students in grades 2-5 -- participated in the program.

"It was a beautiful assembly," said Sgt. Greg Toczek, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran from Buffalo, New York, whose fiancee, Alyssa Zag, is a third-grade teacher at Etna Road.

Toczek was one of several veterans who addressed students during the assembly and between patriotic songs performed by each class.

Toczek spoke about ways to thank veterans, such as writing letters or shaking their hand and saying "thank you" after they have returned home.

"When I was overseas in Afghanistan, (Marines) were not home when their children were born ... (or) missed their first steps, but some never came back home," said Toczek, adding he chose to serve "to protect the freedoms we all enjoy."

Toczek met Zag in Greece while serving as diplomatic security as a U.S. embassy.

Principal Jessica Moore said the school's music teacher, Nicole Nightingale, arranged the program.

She established the program at Kae Avenue Elementary School; however, she moved to Etna Road, along with many students, when the district opened its Early Literacy Campus earlier this year at Kae Avenue.

Each class sang a specific patriotic song, each in tribute to one of the branches of the armed services, before all students joined in a medley.

Students also distributed flowers to each veteran in attendance.

"It was a great to honor us, but it also teaches these young kids about patriotism," said Robert Burns, a 1983 graduate of Whitehall-Yearling High School and an eight-year U.S. Army veteran.

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