GRAPEVINE, Texas — On this Veterans Day, and on any given day for that matter, a simple word of thanks given to someone who served the U.S. military can go a very long way. At Grapevine High School, however, the tradition of an extensive, loud, and authentically genuine thank you continues to bind veterans and the next generation together.
Early Friday morning, a path of red paper carpet lined multiple hallways inside the high school: its reverence obvious by the number of students you noticed who would often jump over it, refusing to tread on it. The honor was reserved for veterans only.
At 8:35 a.m. sharp, an assembled group of invited veterans emerged from the school library. With Grapevine High School seniors leading a procession that began with one student bearing an American flag, the veterans marched through the school on the path of red carpet as students, teachers, and staff lined the hallways offering applause.
Vietnam veteran Dan Decker, with a smile on his face and a tear in his eye, said he never received a welcome like this, especially in the 1970s when Marines and soldiers and airmen like himself came home.
"This is something else. This is amazing. My first time here," Decker said.
The parade through the school, with the veterans walking the most friendly, congratulatory and raucous gauntlet you could imagine, ended in the school auditorium where the school orchestra and choir performed military hymns and ballads for each branch of military service.
Navy veteran Stephen Holley, co-founder of the Dallas nonprofit Carry The Load, praised the students for doing what he hoped the next generation of youth would learn to do: honor those who have gone before them.
"Educating that next generation about the importance of service, sacrifice, patriotism," he said of Carry The Load's "Carry The Flag" program that seeks to do exactly what this event at Grapevine High School is doing.
And, as veterans and students chatted at a post-ceremony breakfast, it was clear that's exactly what is happening here.
"This is amazing," Vietnam veteran Dan Decker said as he sat at a table with Korean War veteran Randy Dellis and Grapevine High School senior Kayla Lux.
"I'm blown away that the high school goes to this level and does this for us," Decker said.
"I hope that they feel recognized and that they feel seen, that they feel heard," said high school senior Kayla Lux. "They're still important and they deserve to be recognized and know that their community loves them."
"It reaffirms my belief in the future of America," added Korean War veteran Randy Dellis. "When I see these kids and their exuberance, that pulls me back up and helps me realize we're not in such a bad situation."
And that's what some youthful exuberance, some red carpet, and a long overdue thank you achieved on this Veterans Day. And it included the promise that Grapevine High School will keep parading this same gesture of thanks every Veterans Day to come.