In past years, the Veterans Day ceremony at Osceola Elementary School would consist of the whole school coming together with patriotic music playing in the background. Students would then learn the proper way of folding an American flag and a veteran would recall his or her experiences serving our country.
The pandemic wiped out those plans, forcing school officials to go to a plan B.
When it was learned the spouses of two OES staff members -- Jill Harrington and Erin Graff -- were serving overseas, a good plan B was found.
OES counselor Kristin Boileau coordinated the effort, with a key mandate: keeping it a surprise from Harrington and Graff.
“That was pretty easy,” she said. “We all worked as a team.”
The end result were cards of thanks, crafts and a movie of students saying thanks to Teeshan Harrington and Michael Graff.
“I think (elementary) students get the general idea of Veterans Day,” Boileau continued. “They understand it’s a big deal, fighting for our freedom.”
Teeshan is a First Sergeant with Minnesota Army National Guard, explained Jill, a Kids Klub Aide. He joined in 1996 and is currently in his sixth deployment. He has been to Saudi Arabia in 2001, Kosovo in 2003, 2007, Kuwait/Iraq in 2011, Egypt in 2016 and currently in Djibouti, Africa.
He left on June 1 and is not expected home until April or May.
Harrington said saw the video for the first time Nov. 7 and it stirred many emotions.
“It brought me to tears,” she said. “Deployments are hard and add COVID-19 too it and it multiplies…Seeing all the sweet faces honoring our America heroes is an emotional thing that I will cherish for years to come.” She admitted to knowing about a video as a 4K class she was an aide took part in one.
Veterans Day wasn’t the only milestone for Teeshan last week. On Nov. 9, he celebrated his 50th birthday.
“It absolutely made his day to receive so many cards, gifts and videos,” Jill continued. “Holidays and birthdays are hard when you are so far away from loved ones. He was surprised and so grateful to everyone for thinking of him. He loved it.”
The couple are the parents of Liam, a freshman, and Jace, a sixth-grader.
“Veterans Day means a lot to our family,” she concluded. “We have many family members that have serviced and we love that there is a day to celebrate them. The freedoms we have in this great nation have not come free. Many have sacrificed so much and many have sacrificed all.”
While Boileau thought she was keeping it a surprise, even Graff knew something was going on as well.
“I loved it when students would stop me in the hallway and excitedly say, “Mrs. Graff, I’m writing a letter to your husband,” Erin, OES’ school psychologist explained. “It means a lot to me that students and staff put in the effort to send Michael letters. OES is a supportive place to be with lots of thoughtful individuals.”
Michael is in the Infantry division and has been a sniper for 10 years. He, too, is in Africa for a year.
“He loved it,” Erin said, when asked about Michael’s reaction to the video. “He had a big smile on his face and was laughing with joy when watching the video.
“To me, Veterans Day means freedom, sacrifice, strength and honoring those who have served.”