Students at Big Lake’s Independence Elementary School know classroom volunteer Larry Byrne as “Mr. Larry.”
On Wednesday, November 11, students also learned that Larry Byrne is a veteran.
Byrne was the guest veteran at the school’s annual Veteran’s Day program, presented virtually this year because of the coronavirus.
Mr. Larry joined the Army right out of high school and became part of a combat engineering outfit. He spent one year stationed in the United States and two years stationed in Europe, he told the students of Independence Elementary School.
His service in the Army laid the foundation for the rest of his life.
“When I got out of the Army I stayed in engineering, said Byrne, noting that he would spend 44 years in a career as a mechanical engineer.
“After 44 years I retired. Now I’m a volunteer at school,” Byrne said.
Byrne was asked about veterans and who they are. Veterans are someone who served in active duty and were honorably discharged, he said.
“A veteran may be the person you see next to you at the store, or a member of your family or extended family,” Byrne said.
“They are all around you going about their business,” Byrne said of veterans.
“Some have seen the worst of human nature called war, while others have not served in harms way,” Byrne said.
Byrne told the students that they should noy assume that only men are veterans. Many women joined the service, as well, he said.
Byrne was also asked how one can show appreciation to our veterans.
Start by saying ‘Thank you for your service’ when you see someone you know was in the service or is wearing something like a hat or jacket signifying they were in the service, he said.
“You’d be surprised at how proud they are when they those words from family members or complete strangers,” Byrne said.
Larry Byrne said the students and their families could support veterans through organizations like DAV (Disabled American Vets). DAV helps veterans with many things, including rides to Veterans Administration clinics and hospitals, including VA hospitals in St. Cloud and Minneapolis.
He also noted a program called Operation Gratitude that delivers cards and care packages to veterans and active military personnel.
The Veterans Day program included the honoring of veterans who are family members of students at Independence Elementary School, as well as veterans who are employees of the Big Lake School District.
Third grade students performed “It’s a Grand Old Flag,” while fourth graders performed the song “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Fifth grade students performed “Semper Fidelis.”
Winners of the third grade Americana Art Competition were announced, as were winners of the fourth grade Letter to a Veteran competition and the fifth grade Veteran’s Day essay competition.
Superintendent Tim Truebenbach closed the ceremony with a message to students.
“Take time to reflect on the freedoms available to you because of those who have served,” Truebenbach said.
Truebenbach also noted that “Big Lake Schools are stronger and better because of those who have served.”
Reach Jeff Hage at firstname.lastname@example.org