CELEBRATING TOGETHER - Hadley Hines, left, Ella Swearingen, center, and Kylee Davis, fourth grade students in Vickie Gilbert's class at Jefferson School, explain their patriotic poster that honors veterans to Medicalodges Independence resident, Larry Duke, earlier today. Students walked over from the school to give residents their posters, as well as celebrate Veterans Day with them.
CELEBRATING TOGETHER - Hadley Hines, left, Ella Swearingen, center, and Kylee Davis, fourth grade students in Vickie Gilbert's class at Jefferson School, explain their patriotic poster that honors veterans to Medicalodges Independence resident, Larry Duke, earlier today. Students walked over from the school to give residents their posters, as well as celebrate Veterans Day with them.

It wasn't a long walk for Jefferson School's 4th grade teacher, Vickie Gilbert, and her students made the trek to Medicalodges Independence this morning to honor veterans with the residents there. With their colorful, patriotic projects, they gave posters to the residents, as well as singing songs to them about celebrating Veterans Day.

While the students at Jefferson are no strangers to Medicalodges, the presentation was designed to teach them the meaning of honoring veterans and recognizing the efforts they made in the line of duty,

One veteran in particular, Ben Long, is the activities director at Medicalodges.

"The residents love seeing the kids," he said. "The teachers usually call us and we set something up for the students to come by and visit. We see them a lot during the holidays. It really puts a smile on everyone's faces here. They love it."

There were 42 residents that watched the students as they handed out posters, some decorated with colorful red, white, and blue ribbon, and others with bright American flags.

Long served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army from 2003-2007.

"I was deployed to Iraq for four years," Long said. "I was a senior in high school here in Independence when 9/11 happened. I felt it was the right thing to do at the time. I was going to play football at the college here, but I decided to join the U.S. Army. After spending four years there, I came back here."

Long was originally in restorative therapy at Medicalodges, but then moved to being the activities director.

"Now I get to play games," he said with a laugh. Long, and his wife, Sara, are the parents to Riley, 9, and Wyatt, 6. He and his family live in Independence.

"It's something I'm very proud of doing. I learned leadership skills and life experiences from being in the Army. I encourage everyone to consider joining the military. It doesn't have to be the Army necessarily, although I am proud of what I accomplished by doing it," Long said. Megan Lawrence, Medicalodges Independence administrator, encouraged community participation, especially for special events, like holidays. "We're proud of Ben. With more community involvement, I think it'd make a great, positive impact — we'd love to see that happen," she said.