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The Scarlet & Black

With the help of local students, the Grinnell community honors its veterans

Third and fourth-graders from Davis Elementary school visit the Mayflower during their joint Veterans Day celebration with the Grinnell Historical Museum. Contributed by Bob Mann.

By Ingrid Meulemans


As Veterans Day came and went, Grinnell community members, both old and young, gathered to pay their respects. While many independent patriotic organizations such as the Elks club and the Eagles club held their own events, retired teacher Barb Lease and her friend Sif Vogel worked with the Grinnell Historical Museum and the Mayflower Community to plan a large combined event hoping to honor veterans while also bringing the historical artifacts of their service into the limelight. 

“I am on the board of the Grinnell Historical Museum,” said Mayflower resident Lease. “I thought it would be neat this year to honor veterans with a joint event. So, the museum provided historical military artifacts, and set up a display in the Mayflower’s Pearson hall. We put up historical items we had brought over from the museum, and I also let people at the Mayflower know that if they had personal family artifacts, that they should bring those as well.”

In addition to the display, Lease and Vogel also organized a care package that would be sent to service men and women abroad. The unit that will receive this package happens to be Lease’s husband, Leo Lease’s, reserve unit. In an effort to include even more community members, Lease reached out to her friend, a third-grade teacher at Davis Elementary School, and asked if students would be interested in drawing pictures and writing letters that could be included in the care package. After talking about the event with other teachers at Davis, Lease received an email back saying that not only would third grade be willing to participate, but the whole school was hoping to join in as well. 

“So, long story short,” said Lease, “we had a wonderful visit from the children at Davis. We couldn’t even handle all the kids! Fourth-grade came in the morning and their music teacher, Barb VanErsvelde, had taught them two songs and they played little instruments. The students came right up to the building, and we opened the doors and the windows, and they sang two songs for us. Then we gave them all cookies, and they got on the buses and went home.”

Such a large number of students from Davis ended up visiting the Mayflower that the visitors couldn’t even fit in the lobby. The bundled students stood outside and sang to residents. 

Davis Elementary wasn’t the only school participating in Veterans Day, though. A few blocks away, at the middle school, Principal Clay Harrolds was continuing on the tradition of the annual Veterans Day assembly. 

“It’s only my second year at the middle school,” said Harrolds, “but I know they’ve had a Veterans Day assembly for the students, community and surrounding areas for several years now. So, we had an assembly here for about the last 45 minutes of the school day … We do a tribute, we bring in the colors, we do a couple different songs to salute the different branches of the military. And when the veterans from their respective divisions hear their song played, they stand.” 

As a grandmother of a 6th grader, Lease is very familiar with this ceremony. “It really touches your heart,” said Lease when asked about the middle school assembly. “That these kids do this to honor the veterans, it really touches your heart. And the kids love it, and the veterans love it. You know I was telling someone the other day, and this hit me when the middle schoolers sang each song from the branch of the military, but also when those little third and fourth graders came over … You know we’re all touched by patriotic songs, but when you hear them sung by children, it really gets to you.” 

Lease attributes the sense of respect that students show on Veterans Day to their teachers. “The kids here, they are really involved with [Veterans Day] and I owe that to our teachers, and of course to their parents, but our teachers are really good. For example, our third-grade teachers still teach a local history unit.”

Leo Lease, a retired service man and schoolteacher agrees with his wife’s statement. “Well, it really is touching,” said Mr. Lease about the ceremony. “You know, I taught school here for 30 years, so I’ve had a lot to do with the kids, and I was in reserves at that time too, so I enjoy working with kids. I think they have an interest [in the military], they want to ask questions and figure out how it all works. Well it’s part of the reasons that I served in the military in the first place, to try to protect their freedom, and try to, as much as I could, assure their safety, so that they have an opportunity to pursue a happy life. So, when they show in interest in Veterans Day, it helps them realize that we are all patriots together.”


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    Hugo LaneNov 16, 2019 at 9:56 am

    Memory can play tricks, so my recollection could be wrong but I don’t remember any acknowledgement of Veterans’ Day at the college during the 3 years I spent in Grinnell in the early 1980s. As war become more distant it is a good thing for people to see veterans no matter what one’s perspective on specific wars Hugo Lane class of ‘85.