PETAL, Miss -- U.S. Army Maj. Dave Lombardo, executive officer, 177th Armored Brigade, First Army Division East, helped Petal Primary School kick off its annual Veteran's Day program as the guest speaker here Nov. 9.

Lombardo's daughter Samantha, is a second grade student at the school, and his wife Erin, who is a teacher at the school, provided more than enough motivation for the self-described "forest ninja" to address a standing room only crowd of parents, students and veterans for the first time.

"I want to be a role model to my own daughter and ensure she understands what it means to appreciate Veterans and to acknowledge her sacrifices because she has an Army dad," said Lombardo. "Second, it was great to support my wife in her effort to positively influence the kids."

The program was led by Paige Perkins' students -- a student organization focused on promoting Veteran awareness in the community.

"One of the most important things we do on this campus is teach our students to be responsible citizens," said Principal Tessa Trimm. "Things like this are so important because it allows all of our students an opportunity to learn about Veterans Day."

Lombardo spoke on the subjects of what a Veteran was, interesting jobs in the military and the importance of sacrifice. He also took time to recognize Veterans in the audience from all five branches of the U.S. military.

"There's so much to be said about the bond shared among veterans due to the hardships we've faced and the reliability we require from one another," added Lombardo. "Those leadership traits follow these women and men into our communities.

Lombardo acknowledge that Petal has a strong, supportive military community with many Veterans and a large contingent of Camp Shelby Soldiers who live in and around the area.

The 18-year Army Veteran was quick to point out that although it's great to wear the uniform, it's also important to bridge the gap between citizen and Soldier.

"Too often Veterans' significance is over inflated or underappreciated," stated Lombardo following the program. "Veterans are American citizens also; they just chose a different career. What makes them special is the why."