By Laura Brown

Triplicate staff writer

Led by two Del Norte County Sheriff cars, the Coast Guard Color Guard and the Del Norte High School drummers, nearly 300 Bess Maxwell students marched down Harding Avenue to visit Crescent Convalescent Hospital residents yesterday morning.

The children sang patriotic tunes to salute their country and community in recognition of Veterans Day.

Im sure several of them are veterans or have family members who are, said Bess Maxwell Principal Dennis Louy of the convalescent residents. We just wanted to do something for our community.

Flooding the street, the groups of children and teachers walked, some holding hands and all of them waving homemade crayon and marker colored flags taped to pencils.

Its going to be a long walk, said Teresa Goodwin, 5, arm-and-arm with two older girls.

We are going to sing songs because the people in the Convalescent Hospital are veterans and served in the war, said 9-year-old Tanner Mills.

People came out of their homes to watch as the students paraded past neighborhoods. Mothers with their young children sat on curbsides or stood in driveways shielding their eyes from the sun. Officers in uniform stood next to their patrol cars smiling and waving at the procession. The street was blocked off from traffic for the display.

In the past, the school would dress up in costume on Halloween and visit the convalescent hospital. A joint decision was made to link the visits more to education. Kids get Veterans Day off and we wanted something schoolwide to emphasize the meaning, said Maureen Follett, a first-grade teacher who helped collaborate with other staff members to create the event.

Were in a heightened awareness. There are several staff members who have sons and daughters who have been called to duty for the war on terrorism. And the people there (at hospital) are always really excited to see new kids come through, said Follett.

Arriving at the convalescent hospital, the children filed in rows on the grass. An assembly of white-haired seniors, draped in colorful afghans and seated in wheelchairs, faced the younger generation. Their solemn faces brightened when the chorus of off-key voices rose to sing God Bless America and America the Beautiful. Some mouthed the words silently to the songs as children waved their flags wildly overhead.

Its alright, said Lothard Dunlap, 82. I had two brothers that went over there one stationed in Japan the other in Germany. Both were decorated for bravery. I got grandkids. I sure enjoy them visiting too. They sure are precious, I tell you.

I think its great. That so many kids could do so well, said 81-year-old resident, Lela Mulinix.