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Students create a touching tribute

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Students create a touching tribute
Rosemount Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

There have been tears shed in the halls of Rosemount Elementary School this week, but that's OK. They're good tears. Tears of pride. Tears of remembrance. They're tears that pay tribute to generations of men and women who have served their country.

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The reasons for the tears line a hallway that stretches from the school's main entrance down past the library to the kindergarten classrooms. There are sheets of blue paper stapled and taped to the wall and photographs of fathers and mothers, uncles and grandfathers uncles. The are men and women who served in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

The papers carry names and messages about where each person served or stories about good times spent with them.

RES student Amaya Hill put up a photo of herself getting a hug from her uncle, Sean McDonald. The story that accompanies it is about sledding with him while he was on leave from Iraq.

McDonald died in March of 2008 while on patrol in Iraq.

"I wanted people to see it," Hill said of the tribute on the wall. "He's special."

There are a lot of special people on the walls at RES, and for the people who helped put everything together the project was a special experience.

Candy Elmore is one of those people. Elmore is the secretary to RES principal Tom Idstrom, and a photograph of her father, a former Navy pilot, sits in a locked case dedicated to the friends and family of RES staff members. Donald Woog died a little more than a year ago, and putting together the display helped Elmore deal with that.

"I've had a hard time losing him and being part of this display was a way to (lift him up)," she said. "One of his favorite things was being a Navy pilot."

Kindergarten teacher Teri Skaar worked on the display, too. Her son, Evan, is training to become a Navy Seal. She said she's seen teachers reading the entries on the wall to their students with tears in their eyes.

The project has also helped start discussions among families about relatives who served, and about the wars in which they fought.

"It's just brought up a lot more history than we expected," Skaar said. "We've covered a lot of different wars and all different branches of the military."

The project started with an e-mail from Idstrom looking for people willing to help assemble a display for Veteran's Day. It was Elmore who recommended turning the display case over to RES staff, and the response was impressive. In addition to photos of Donald Woog and Evan Skaar there is a uniform that belongs to the son of kindergarten teacher Diane Kelly and a photo of a former RES student who is currently serving in the Navy, among other items. In another display case there is an old newspaper story about the father of one of the school's custodians, who served along with his five brothers.

Skaar said the response to the display has been good from all sides.

"You don't know how it's going to be received because not everybody has somebody in the military," Skaar said. "This is not a political statement. We're trying to do what Veteran's Day is intended to be and that's honor veterans."

The display was originally going to be up through this week but the response has been so positive it will stay up through November. Skaar and Elmore said there has already been talk about next year's display.

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