OAKLAND, Maine (WABI) - Veterans Day came early in Oakland Thursday.
Messalonskee Middle School students honored veterans at a special event.
Messages of gratitude filled the auditorium at Messalonskee Middle School's annual Veterans Tribute Assembly.
"Veterans, all of them, are very unique and amazing," says 8th grade student Ruby Marden. "And all of them have the best stories that I've ever learned."
Leading up to the event, students met and interviewed veterans, then created projects to honor them.
Marden won the award for best poem.
"I just poured all of what I thought about veterans and freedom and the flag into it," says Marden. "And everything that I said is truly what I meant, and I'm really proud to be an American."
This program was started 17 years ago at Winslow Junior High by retired teacher Linda Voss.
"I saw a need for students to connect with the community and with veterans to appreciate their freedoms," says Voss.
World War II Veteran Wally LaFountain was there from the beginning and has seen the program grow to what it is today.
"It was just me in her classroom, with 18 kids or so, and then it got so she interviewed more people, and it became an assembly," says LaFountain.
He's been telling his stories for nearly two decades now.
"Aren't those kids great?" says LaFountain. "God, this country is in good hands. If those kids just keep evolving and become our leaders, we have good people."
Voss is moving away soon, so today was extra special for her.
"I really am proud to be an American, and I'm leaving this, so this was a bittersweet tribute today because I won't be a part of it anymore," says Voss.
Voss also says that she hopes this program expands to every school across the state of Maine.