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SOUTH SIOUX CITY - - South Sioux City Middle School students got a chance to meet much older military veterans on Friday. Then in a large assembly, the students thanked the veterans, who explained how Veterans Day came to be celebrated.

For 90 minutes, first with a coffee session, and then in a theater program, students got to interact with veterans, since school officials wanted pupils to understand the hard work that people carry out in the military. The Veterans Day celebration has been held for many years at the school, and Gene Cantrel, 88, of Dakota City, Nebraska, said he's been to most of them.

"I'm really impressed. The kids really respect the veterans and they do a great job with the speaking parts they do," Cantrell said. 

"I look forward every year to seeing this program."

At least 35 veterans were on hand, as each was asked to stand when the branches of their service was read aloud, including Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy.

Cantrell served in the Army in Korea from 1953 to 1955, and said he learned the important life skill of discipline while handling duties in the southern tier of that nation. Richard Wiseman, of Homer, Nebraska, joined the Army one day after leaving high school, and served 30 years through 1994.

Wiseman did two Vietnam War tours and said he "liked the feeling of doing something for my country," even if Vietnam was highly dangerous.

He appreciated the ceremony, which he said likely taught some pupils a valuable lesson.

"What I like most about it is the young people's involvement, to enforce what America is about for them. It just didn't spring up, people had to sacrifice to make it this way," Wiseman said.

Also on Friday across the Missouri River, the Misty Cadet Corps of the Sioux City School District held a second annual Veterans Day Ceremony.

The Air Force JROTC, Misty Cadet Corps ceremony took place at Girls Inc. of Sioux City, where invited veterans heard the 75 students read letters that had been sent home from the front of conflicts, such as World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and Gulf War.

"With borrowed uniforms and gear from the Sioux City Public Museum, cadets re-enacted soldiers writing letters to home," district spokeswoman Meg Harper said.

Back at the South Sioux City Middle School, several dozen students took in speaking parts in the ceremony. They explained how November 11 came to be the date for Veteran's Day, which was an expansion of the initial marking of Armistice Day, as the ending of World War I in 1918.

The armistice was an end to the hostilities, but World War I didn't prove to be the "war to end all wars," as people said in that era. By 1954, under the watch of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Armistice Day was renamed to Veterans Day, "to honor the cause of peace," student Itzel Martinez explained.

"It is the veteran, not the reporter, who preserves our Freedom of Speech," Ulises Tapia-Sanchez said.

"It is the veteran, not the politician, who preserves our right to vote," Paloma Pedraza said.

Viviana Saucedo said it was important to remember the sacrifices of veterans over the nation's history, "from the first shots at Lexington to the desert in Iraq."

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County and education reporter

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