LENOX -- What is a veteran?
For 9-year-old Phoebe Whalen, "Veterans are hard-working and kind ... and sometimes they leave the country which is a selfless act."
"I love when they save people’s lives," added 8-year-old Kendra Frisbie, whose father Nathan served in the U.S. Marines 20 years ago.
Phoebe and Kendra were among the students at Berkshire Christian School in Lenox during the school’s annual tribute to local veterans on Monday.
The small gathering of former servicemen and servicewomen ranging from World War II to the war in Iraq were treated to breakfast before the students honored them with patriotic songs, essays, handshakes and hugs.
"We want to teach [the students] about honor and why the veterans served their country," said school principal Heidi Dickerson.
Among the 12 veterans in attendance was Kelsey Shaw of Hancock. Shaw was attached to the Army National Guard unit out of Pittsfield when she was deployed to Iraq in 2003 for two years. Shaw, no longer in the military, brought along her four young children, in part, for a history lesson.
"My husband and I want them to understand what veterans before us did for our country," Shaw said.
Andrew Shaw still serves in the Army National Guard and was scheduled to return home Monday from the New York City area where he was helping with the recovery effort from Hurricane Sandy.
Norm Sevigny, 78, of Pittsfield, was in the Army from 1953-57 and stationed at a military base in Germany. The construction specialist spent four years traveling Europe with his unit, receiving mixed reaction to continued U.S military presence on the continent after World War II.
"Most Germans were willing to put up with us, although there was hidden animosity," Sevigny recalled. "In France, they were still grateful for what we did for them."
During the school’s ceremony, the veterans received a "welcome home" led by Kathy Mickle, chairwoman of the Berkshires’ Here at Home Committee. Since being founded in 2007, the volunteer, nonprofit group has ceremoniously welcomed back 19 local military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
As the veterans filed into the gymnasium, they were greeted by cheering, flag-waving family, friends, school students and staff -- just as if they were returning home for the first time.