JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Members of the Junior Beta Club at Trinity Christian Academy decided to celebrate Memorial Day early by honoring veterans laid to rest at the Gethsemane Memorial Gardens.
With just days left in the school year, Jonah Couch and Andrew Dore were among dozens of Trinity students who did something special Monday for local veterans.
"We are honoring them,” said Andrew, a sixth-grader.
Andrew, fellow sixth-grader Jonah and their classmates decorated grave sites at the Gethsemane Memorial Gardens on Hammond Avenue after getting a lesson about military decoration protocol.
They learned how to use the American flag to properly decorate the graves before saluting and naming each veteran.
“Charlie McCroy Jr., private, U.S. Army. Thank you for protecting my country, my family and me,” one student said, saluting next to a veteran's grave.
With a map in hand, each student found veteran graves and followed the decoration protocol.
"(We want) to be respectful of veterans that have died in combat or just old age or sickness," Jonah said.
The students had help from a retired veteran, who said patriotism is lacking in America.
"(I wanted) to bring the young people in to decorate the graves of our veterans and give them a sense of respect for the veterans that are buried here,” said retired Air Force veteran John Couch, Jonah's grandfather.
About 150 veterans are laid to rest at Gethsemane.
"They have given their lives to save us and give us freedom, and we've learned that we really need to show respect,” fifth-grader Emma Haney said.
Students said they hope this continues to be a yearly tradition.
"(It's) kind of a thank you,” Jonah said. “Even though they can't hear, it still means something.”