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HometownAnnapolis.com - South Shore Elementary Veteran's Day Event - American freedom doesn't come free - it's bought with the sacrifice and bravery of our veterans.

That's what students at South Shore Elementary School in Crownsville learned Friday at their school's Veterans Day celebration.

"I learn more about it each year, but I realize the same thing - that we need to be grateful for the veterans that served so that we could have a good life," said Kayla Smith, 10. "We need to understand that we are only safe because of them."

County Councilman Jamie Benoit, D-Crownsville, who lives across the road from South Shore Elementary and will eventually send his two children there, helped organize the event.

"My goal is to get other schools county-wide to the same thing," he said. "We owe it to the veterans to remember them and thank them."

He added that today's children don't always have the same understanding of veterans as his generation did.

Veterans Day is really about an idea that is America, he told South Shore's students.

He introduced the keynote speaker, Col. John W. Ripley, a decorated and retired Marine.

Mr. Benoit pointed out that he was in the Army and Col. Ripley was in the Navy's sister service, and then told the students, "On the count of three, I want you to tell Col. Ripley what I told you to say."

All together, the students shouted, "Go Army, beat Navy!" Teachers andparents laughed and applauded.

During Vietnam, Col. Ripley single-handedly blew up the Dong Ha bridge in Vietnam, blunting the largest North Vietnamese offensive of the war.

"We know what the cost of liberty is, and it's a very dear cost," Col. Ripley told the students.

"Veterans are willing to sacrifice their time, their well-being, even their lives. That's what veterans do."

Dressed in red, white and blue, the students in kindergarten through fifth grade sang songs and read poems about America and veterans.

The first grade rapped the Pledge of Allegiance, and Annapolis High School's JROTC color guard posted and retired the flags.

"Anyone who thinks patriotism is dead should come to an event like this," Col. Ripley said after the ceremony. He and several other veterans spoke with groups of students afterward.

One student asked Col. Ripley what was the saddest part about being in the Marines.

It was when they lost a Marine, he said.

"That made me feel kind of sorry for him," said Faye Barrett, 10. "Even though he's helping others, there's bad things happening to him, and he doesn't deserve that."

Kayla said the celebration made her think about maybe joining the armed forces someday.

"I really admire what they do, and I think it'd be really nice to serve and know that I'm protecting my county," she said.

Faye added, "It takes a lot of guts to be somebody in our armed forces. I'm glad we got to thank our veterans."
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