APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Einstein Middle School’s gymnasium was filled to the brim Friday morning with keen classmates, supportive staff, proud parents and venerable veterans for its 21st Veterans’ Day program.

“(The students) are so grateful to the veterans, and they respond by thanking you a lot, and I really appreciate that,” Army veteran Lloyd Wettstein said.

The choir, band, orchestra and social studies department came together to put on the program, which featured each individual branch of the national guard being recognized through song.

“It’s a sense of pride in our student body for playing those songs and giving those people the opportunity to feel recognized,” Einstein Middle School geography teacher Kathy Ennis said. “When all of the students from the band play the different military songs, it gives the veterans an opportunity to stand up and be recognized. Many of the veterans were never recognized for their service.”

The students fundraised a total of $14,000 to be split between nonprofits Old Glory Honor Flight and Patriot K9s of Wisconsin. It was the most ever raised in school history.

For the veterans, the ceremony is priceless.

“It’s a very uplifting feeling for everybody, including the veterans,” Army veteran James Herrman said.

“During the military song, a lot of times I start busting up when the Navy comes up, because I was in the Navy,” veteran Robert Voettcher said.

This year, there was a special theme of animals’ service in the national guard, and it went beyond dogs: students explained how cats, horses, foxes, bears, eagles and even dolphins have served the country.

“I have a sense of pride and hope, I have hope for the future with the kids we interact with,” Navy veteran Joe Willharms said. “It gives you a good feeling.”

Ennis said that the students can not get the civic education any other way.

“It’s hard to read something in a book, and it’s much more compelling when you have an individual sitting in front of you,” Ennis said. “History needs to be something that comes alive.”