News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011
AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. -- It has been nearly nine years since the start of the Iraq War, and now some of those who have just served are becoming the newest U.S. veterans.
This Veterans Day will no doubt have special meaning to them.
That's because in less than two months, most troops in Iraq should be coming home.
And on the day before Veterans Day, local students are learning their freedom sure isn't free. Some kids have family in the military, others have teachers who are vets. But they know others -- whom they've never even met -- are fighting for them, too.
"They basically sacrifice a normal life because they are moving, they are going to foreign lands, fighting for our freedoms," said Kerstin Wright, who is part of the JROTC.
Aiken High senior Kerstin Wright knows from experience what it means to have family in the military.
"I have had two uncles that went and fought in Iraq, our family became more of a unit because we had to support our family over there," Kerstin said.
News the war in Iraq is coming to a close is a sigh of relief for her.
"My brother aspires to join the military, when I first found out I was like, 'He is going to be sent to Iraq,' and I don't have to worry about that now," she explained.
While Kerstin has this education at home, her classmates are learning about through a a ceremony at Aiken High School. But for a lot of these kids, there's a little military in their classroom every day.
"The experience as a Marine officer shaped the way I do things every day, and one of the things my students will tell you about me is we are accountable for stuff in my classroom," said veteran and Aiken High teacher David Smith.
And it wasn't just the students getting the chance to appreciate our veterans, youngsters at North Augusta Elementary got to meet some local heroes like Matthew McClure's father.
"It is neat my dad helped protect our country because if he didn't and all of the other people in the Army didn't, we wouldn't be free today," Matthew said.
Matthew then paused for the Pledge of Allegiance, just like students of all ages will pause on Veterans Day to remember the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.
And a lot of them have made the ultimate sacrifice. During the Iraq War, more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers lost their lives.