Elementary Students Unveil 14-Foot Tribute to Veterans That Took ‘Most of the School Year’ to Make

Elementary Students Unveil 14-Foot Tribute to Veterans That Took ‘Most of the School Year’ to Make

Leave it to a group of kids to provide a much-needed, feel-good story that gives hope for the country.

According to WCIA in Mattoon, Illinois, older students at Riddle Elementary School spent many months painting a 14-foot cafeteria mural in honor of local veterans.

“We’ve been working on this mural for most of the school year, and we’re happy to present it,” fifth-grader Kyleigh Janssen said.

Remarkably, students worked on the mural during recess.

In other words, those kids honored veterans as much by imitating their sacrifices as they did by painting the mural.

Fourth-grade student Lucy Bagwell described the project as an expression of gratitude.

“For this year’s mural, we wanted a painting that would say ‘thank you’ to each and every veteran that viewed it,” she said.

A fellow fourth-grade student also had local heroes in mind.

“Every year here at Riddle, we have a Veterans Day parade that features our Mattoon veterans,” fourth grader Jansen McDevitt said.

Located southeast of Springfield in central Illinois, Mattoon boasts a population of less than 17,000, per the U.S. Census Bureau.

In fact, Mattoon Tourism has described the town as “[n]estled in the heart of Coles County.”

Small towns like Mattoon, no matter where they might be “nestled,” probably evoke certain images in the minds of those who grew up in similar places.

Mattoon, for instance, has an annual Bagelfest. That “celebration of all things bagel” involves a carnival with amusement-park rides, as well as a parade and concerts.

This year’s Bagelfest, scheduled for July 18-20, will feature a concert by Christian artist Blessing Offer on Thursday, July 18. Eddie Montgomery of the country duo Montgomery Gentry will perform on Friday, followed by Resurrection: Journey Tribute Band on Saturday.

Of course they will. After all, the very idea of Americana would not exist without small towns that host quirky annual festivals featuring Christian artists, once-prominent country singers and Journey tribute bands.

Indeed, one can almost picture the festival, the town’s Veterans Day parade and even the school itself.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that the kids of Riddle Elementary School give reason for hope. And the same holds true for the adults who guided them.

America, of course, has never been solely the sum of its most idyllic places or heroic moments. Small towns can breed parochialism, as well as neighborliness. And our ancestors sinned every bit as much as we do.

Nonetheless, in meaningful ways, small towns filled with strong families and grateful children hold the key to America’s future.

“The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body,” Thomas Jefferson once wrote.

Conversely, “It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor.”

Indeed, if small-town children can surrender their recess time to paint a giant mural in honor of veterans, then the manners and spirit of the people remain strong.


This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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