FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Woodbrook Middle School celebrated a day early with a Veterans Day Assembly, Monday.

The celebration started when five Soldiers from 3rd Brigade brought a Stryker vehicle to the school grounds.

"For three hours they let the students go on the vehicle and use the electronic sighting instruments," said Greg Wilson, vice principal. "That was really neat for the kids, and they enjoyed it a lot."

Later that day, a color guard and speaker from the Stryker brigade combat team, took part in an assembly in the school gymnasium.

Staff Sgt. Richard Maynes, who has served two tours in Iraq, talked about Veterans Day and about the color guard.

"Before the 20th century, military colors were carried covered except for ceremonies or when in sight of the enemy," Maynes said. "A unit's colors provided battlefield recognition for both friend and foe. These were always the soul and reputation of the unit."

He said each regiment had two flags - the national colors and a regimental flag, just like the color guard from 3rd Bde.

"To ensure that the men knew the flag of their own regiment, the two flags were paraded before them during reviews and other ceremonies," Maynes said. "From this practice developed our modern color guard."

The color guard is a significant part of Veterans' Day because it represents all that the U.S. military has fought for, Maynes said.

In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as Armistice Day, to commemorate the end of World War I at the 11th hour, of the 11th Day, of the 11th month in 1918. Congress changed the name to Veterans Day in 1954, following World War II and the Korean conflict, to honor all men and women, who had served in the nation's armed forces.

"Veterans Day is not about supporting the war or about supporting a certain political party or agenda," Maynes said. "Veterans Day is about veterans. It is about honoring their service to our great country."

We enjoy freedom today," he said, "because of the Soldiers who sacrificed their lives, and the wives who supported them by staying at home to raise their children by themselves."

Maynes' experiences in uniform made the day even more important to him, he said.

"I've personally fought alongside many brave Soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice," Maynes said. "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about them.

"Through the sadness, I find solace in knowing that they didn't die in vain. I will always remember who they were and what they fought for," he said. "They were what it means to be a hero."

Following "The Star Spangled Banner," played by the eighth-grade band, two students - Megan Horn and Da'Nitra Wade-Roberts - read their winning Veterans Day poems.

"More than half of our students come from military families," Wilson said.

The student body recognized Veterans and their families by writing the names of military family members or friends on stars. The stars were then used to construct a gigantic flag that was on display at the school.

Barbara L. Sellers is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.