Some might think American youths are too immature and self-absorbed to understand sacrifices made by our nation’s veterans.

The youths of Echo might just take exception to that line of thinking. On Thursday, students from kindergarten to 12th grade took to the streets for the Echo School’s annual Veterans Day parade.

Each elementary grade adopted a military branch. They came in waves: the National Guard, Marines, Coast Guard, Army, Navy and Air Force. Middle school students dressed as important military-related figures. High school students formed a moving flag.

They marched down Main Street to the beat of patriotic tunes, looped around a block and marched back to the school. Some enthusiastically yelled, “USA, USA, USA” as they walked, evoking grins and applause from family members and other Echo residents lining the parade route.

The celebration didn’t end there. The students trooped into the gymnasium where they spent another hour honoring local veterans, singing songs, reciting poems and listening to guest speakers that included Umatilla County Commissioner George Murdock and Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner.

Afterward, students lined a dim corridor they dubbed “The Tunnel of Honor.” As veterans passed by, they applauded or gave enthusiastic high fives. At the end of the tunnel, the veterans found a multipurpose room with cake (covered with American flag frosting, of course). Around the room, the students who had dressed as military-related characters assumed the position of figures in a wax museum. They held each pose for eight minutes before moving to a new position. Sign boards explained their identities.

During the assembly, students listened quietly to wise words from their elders.

“Today it is our privilege to say thank you to all of our nation’s veterans, to let them know we appreciate their service and honor them for their sacrifices,” said Amador Estrada, who teaches math and Spanish and served as emcee during the assembly. “The price of freedom is high. We cannot forget those willing to pay for it.”

Judging by the looks on the faces of local veterans as they walked through The Tunnel of Honor, the youth of Echo know how to show gratitude.

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