Radio Park Elementary School celebrates Veterans Day

Jeff Shoemaker asked a group of Radio Park students Friday what they thought people in the military eat.

No one responded.

But the simple answer was “food,” Shoemaker said — just a different kind of food.

The retired U.S. Army sergeant brought in a “Meal, Ready-to-Eat,” or MRE — prepackaged food commonly eaten by service members.

When he took out a package of beef ravioli, about 15 students unanimously yelled “ew.”

It wasn’t what they were expecting.

He then passed around the packages of food so the students could see just what the meal was all about.

Local vet visits class at Radio Park

Shoemaker was invited to Kelly Mark’s third-grade class as part of a Veterans Day class project.

“The kids love to listen to someone else,” Mark said. “I think it’s a benefit for the kids to hear stories from an authentic speaker. It’s a good visual for them.”

Mark gave her students an outline of a Veterans Day project that allowed them to draw a picture of a veteran, answer the question of what Veterans Day meant to them and write a question that Shoemaker could respond to in person.

Some of the questions were, “Why did you join the Army?” “How do you become a veteran?” and “What wars did you fight in?”

But some of Shoemaker’s answers might not have been what the students expected.

Shoemaker didn’t see combat. He worked as a logistics specialist in the Army from 1995 to 2003, and is now a mortgage consultant at Wells Fargo.

It’s like going to a job every day. It was a great avenue for me. I said, ‘wow, I can get paid to eat, sleep and get in shape’

Jeff Shoemaker, retired Army Sgt.

“It’s like going to a job every day,” he told the students about his job in the Army. “It was a great avenue for me. I said, ‘Wow, I can get paid to eat, sleep and get in shape.’ ”

And that’s what Mark said was the unique thing about including Shoemaker in the Veterans Day event.

“It’s cleaning up the misconception that just because you’re in the military you’re in the war,” she said. “He has a different perspective for kids to look at, but in the end, it’s just really bridging the gap between the community and the school.”

Shoemaker is also a former Radio Park student who last attended the school in 1989, and studied in the same classroom where he presented to Mark’s class on Friday.

“I never really looked at myself as a veteran before I started doing some of this,” he said. “But it’s nice to give back and help students learn the importance of Veterans Day and be recognized as a veteran.”

Radio Park also participated in Greenlight A Vet initiative

A first-grade class at Radio Park also did their part to recognize veterans Friday.

Teacher Kelli Gratz said they helped install a green light near the school’s entrance.

The Greenlight a Vet campaign encourages people to light a green light in support of veterans.

“It’s a way to show we can honor them through the year and not just on Veterans Day,” Gratz said.

The class then registered their light online.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo