GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) – They lined their fence surrounding the campus Monday morning. Their hearts were filled with the patriotic spirit and their little voices echoed across Washington Avenue.
"We love veterans! We love veterans!" one class chanted.
More than 600 students and teachers at Bayou View Elementary School in Gulfport waited anxiously. They waved American flags and homemade signs, ready to welcome back dozens of veterans as they make their way to the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport.
When asked how excited they were, the children shouted, "Very excited!"
"Because people have been living in Washington are finally coming home to the coast because of Katrina," said a girl.
"Yeah, I'm pretty excited because I know my dad's friend was one that's coming home," said a boy.
"I'm excited today because I can't wait to see our senior citizens that served this country," said another girl.
"We love you! We love you!" another class chanted.
They waited outside for nearly an hour, but the principal said it was a small sacrifice.
"It's very important for them to appreciate the people who have served our country, to protect our country, so that we can do things like this at our will. That they're free the way they are," said Sandra Wilks.
After a few false alarms, the children finally caught a glimpse of the first bus rounding the corner. The excitement reached a fever pitch as six buses with 85 veterans on board passed by their school.
"Welcome home! Welcome home!" the children shouted.
It was one Civics lesson the youngsters won't soon forget.
When asked what it was like to see the veterans, the children all said "Awesome!"
"We're really glad that they're home," said a girl.
"Yes, we are," her teacher said.
About 250 students and teachers at St. James Elementary School in Gulfport also lined the bus route, along with Anniston Elementary and Pass Road Elementary Schools in Gulfport.