Students at more than 100 Virginia schools got a firsthand account of what life is like in the military when they participated in the History Channel's "Take a Veteran to School Day" Nov. 9. It was the fifth year of a program that brings war veterans together with school children.
Students lined up outside Mount Vernon Woods Elementary in Alexandria, waving American flags and cheering as half dozen veterans walk up to their school.
"I almost feel like a rock star here today," says General Allison Hickey, a retired Air Force pilot. She moves past the hero's welcome at the front doors to a 5th grade classroom, where she recounts her days refueling fighter planes in the sky.
"We would have another airplane that flew up right underneath us and we had this long pole from our airplane into theirs so they could make it to where they needed to go," Hickey says.
"Were you, like, worried?" asks one student.
"It was a little dangerous. It could be a little scary," says Hickey.
The story provides a bit of comfort and insight to the students, about half of whom have someone in their immediate family in the military. While the whole point of "Take a Veteran to School" day is for the children to show appreciation for members of the military, the General says she's also glad to give something back.
"They sacrifice so much as military kids," she says. "I was a military kid, too. So I have a special heart for that."
Keona Fulton, a 5th grader, says today's program reminds her of her uncle, who's on active duty. "When I see him I always give him a hug. and I always say thank you," Keona says.
That simple 'thank you,' is all anyone has to do to show their appreciation, says Hickey.