EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – Fears of the sounds of gunfire on campus convinced the Eau Claire Area School District to ban veterans from performing a 21-Gun Salute at most of its schools.
Only Longfellow Elementary allowed veterans to perform the decades old tradition this Veterans Day, but school officials denied the same request from the Eau Claire Patriotic Council for the district’s other schools, WQOW reports.
Last year, veterans were forced to conduct their ceremony in a Burger King parking lot after the district banned the ceremonial rifles – and blank rounds – from district schools, but this year the private Regis High School stepped up to host the event.
“What is going on with our public schools?” Vietnam War veteran Bob McRoberts questioned. “We are simply trying to teach them about what this means to be a veteran.”
“When they play taps after the 21 Gun Salute, if that doesn’t get you, I do not know what will,” he said.
District officials blamed the decision to turn veterans away last year on “scheduling conflicts” and concerns from parents about their children being exposed to gunfire. The Eau Claire Patriotic Council attempted to reinstitute the tradition this year, but officials weren’t having it, according to the news site.
“I just wanted something that was taken away and we had all these years back,” McRoberts said. “It is the last goodbye to our veterans.”
McRoberts said it’s a tradition that means a lot to those who sacrificed their lives for freedom.
“They need to know that if something happens to them, they will get that 21 Gun Salute, because they deserve that 21 Gun Salute,” he said.
District officials told the news site decisions about Veterans Day programs are made by school officials at each individual school, and there’s not a sweeping ban on the 21 Gun Salute for all Eau Claire schools.
Regis High School Dean Eric Nelson told the Leader-Telegram his school was honored to host the Veterans Day ceremony and 21 Gun Salute for the first time since 1978.
“We just welcome the opportunity to have it here,” he said.
Eau Claire Patriotic Council President Ron Martin told the site the area’s first Armistice Day – the original name for Veterans Day – was celebrated with a parade of floats crafted by elementary school students that were judged for prizes. The event also used to include a prayer around the flagpole at Central High School.
Most Eau Claire schools hosted some sort of Veterans Day event this year, though the extent of the celebrations varied by school. At Memorial High School, students created a film to acknowledge veterans who attended the school that was screened in all classrooms. DeLong Middle School’s event featured student speakers, as well as quilts presented to local state representatives, according to the Leader-Telegram.