GREENTOWN — When Bob Fulford returned in 1971 from his second tour of duty in Vietnam, he felt no appreciation of his service to his country.

Friday, however, Fulford and nearly 60 other veterans were flooded with the appreciation of students, teachers and staff of Eastern Elementary School, at the school’s annual Veterans Day program, one of many in the area.

Students applauded as each veteran walked onto the Eastern Howard Performing Arts Center stage, while teacher Paul Nicholson announced each rank and name.

Nicholson said because of the veterans’ service, “we are here this morning, free to assemble ourselves together freely and not be afraid of being injured or terrorized.”

Air Force Reservist John E. Cranor was among the younger veterans, having graduated from Eastern High School in 2004. He came to the ceremony at the invitation of his sister, Heidi, a third-grader, and said he remembered attending the Veterans Day program as a student.

“I never really thought I’d be there with the military” he said, adding he had a sense of pride in going and representing others in the military who have served in wars, so people can reflect on the sacrifices those veterans have made.

He said it’s good to have a program so children can see who the veterans are in their communities, “and if you see a familiar face, you can tell them thank you,” he said.

Fulford attended at the invitation of his daughter, Karen Rust, who teaches at the school. He said seven of her eight adopted children are students at Eastern Elementary and they were thrilled he came in his Army uniform.

He said he hadn’t had the uniform on since he retired in 1971 and he had to let out the trousers a bit.

Fulford was an Army recruiter in Kokomo in the late 1960s

He said having a Veterans Day program shows young people what the military does and that’s important because “they’re the next generation who’s going to have to do what we did.”

Eastern’s event was one of many honoring local veterans Friday.

Several Kokomo area schools had programs and Kokomo American Legion Post 6 had a ceremony.

American Legion posts in Peru and Galveston also had commemorations, and the Cass County Veterans Council sponsored a parade.

Danielle Rush may be reached at (765) 454-8585 or via e-mail at danielle.rush@kokomotribune.com

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