Students connected especially with Ty, Gary, and their father. "It's hard on the family sometimes, me being gone so much. But it's a decision and choice I and my wife made," said Wade who has served almost nine years in the Air Force and Air National Guard. He also served in the Army National Guard.
He was deployed in Afghanistan for one year in 2012 and has spent the last six months in Kuwait. Even though he was able to talk often with his family while deployed, he said it's not the same as being home and being with them.
"I joined because I love my country. I believe, despite the politics, in our country and what it stands for. I'm proud to serve and feel like I'm contributing to a greater cause," Brown told the students.
Ty said he misses his dad. "Sometimes it's stressful. It's just not the same as having the whole family together. Sometimes we come home and there's nobody there because Dad's gone," said Ty.
Students saw their middle school science teacher in a different way when he talked about his own experiences in the Navy.
"The best part about it was knowing that you are making a difference," said Davis of his time in the Navy. "There is a lot of pride, but also a lot of sacrifices and a tremendous amount of responsibility."
He told students joining the service is a true commitment. "You can't walk away from it."
He said loyalty, dedication, courage, being a good follower and a good leader are all characteristics that make a good soldier.
Students heard much the same from Monte and Laura Munjoy, both employed at TK Schools. Monte is the middle school physical education teacher and Laura works at the middle school and in administration. They shared their perspective as parents having a child in the service.
Laura said it's a great sense of pride in their son, Steve, who is serving in the Navy, but also a constant sense of concern for his safety. The Munjoy's said there were times when their son can't tell them where he is or what he is doing and those are the most difficult times.
"Being away from family is the worst part," said Monte.
Monte shared that his son started college after high school, but realized it wasn't the right time or place for him. So he joined the Navy. "It gave him a sense of direction when he wasn't sure what he wanted. Now he has just soared. He's found his niche," said Monte.
Students were all also able to participate in thanking veterans. Each student with a direct family member who served could put that person's name on a paper brick to help build a wall in the display case titled "Building Blocks of Liberty."
Others purchased a footstep for $1 to honor any veteran they know. The footsteps line the hallway under the heading "Walking in the Footsteps of Heroes." Eighth grade teacher Rojean Sprague hopes the funds can be used to purchase an engraved brick from the eighth grade class for the future Middleville Veterans Memorial.
Wade Brown said he was honored to be part of the day. He only returned home from his recent tour of duty in Kuwait a little more than a week ago and he said he's enjoying every chance he gets to spend with his family.
Wade said he appreciates the efforts the middle school is taking to help students understand the work service men and women do for the country. "I just appreciate that it brings attention to the people who have served and protected our country. We get thank you's quite often now, but it wasn't always that way. The ones who didn't, those are the ones who really need to be thanked. They laid the groundwork for today."