A veteran is someone who has written a blank check that says “up to and including my life,” said Lisa Minton, Waxahachie Ninth Grade Academy student council sponsor and history teacher.

“That’s what I want kids to understand,” Minton said. “They willingly said even if it takes me and that’s something special.”

In honor of Veterans Day and veterans everywhere, Minton is issuing a challenge to each Waxahachie Independent School District campus, community members and others to “Pass on the Kindness,” by doing two things this year — something for the community, and something for veterans or active military.

That’s the theme of this year’s Veterans Day program hosted by the Ninth Grade Academy and Waxahachie High School, Minton, a coordinator for the event, said. The theme is based from a letter written by soldier Marc Lee to his mother two weeks before his death in Iraq, as the first Navy Seal killed, Minton said. The program starts at about 10 a.m. on Tuesday at the Ninth Grade Academy.

Marc’s mother Debbie Lee founded America’s Mighty Warriors after her son’s death, which is an organization dedicated to providing support for troops, the fallen and their families, and works with like-minded organizations, the organization’s website stated. Debbie helped locate the guest keynote speakers for this year’s event, and often reads her son’s last letter at public events. Once Minton and a few other staff members with connections to the organization heard the letter, that’s what sparked the theme, she said.

“Ask yourself when was the last time you donated clothes that you hadn’t worn out. When was the last time you paid for a random stranger’s cup of coffee, meal or maybe even a tank of gas? When was the last time you helped a person with the groceries into or out of their car?” Marc’s letter stated. “Think to yourself and wonder what it would feel like if when the bill for the meal came and you were told it was already paid for. More random acts of kindness like this would change our country and our reputation as a country.”

Minton was taking aback by the charge to be bigger, do better and recognize how people can help their communities, she said. Now about 100 students will serve, praise, thank and show respect to local veterans who will attend the event, she said.

The students are responsible for inviting the veterans from retirement homes in the area, the VFW and any other place they can think of, including sending personal letters to invite them out. They’ll escort the veterans into the school on a red carpet and to their seats. The program itself will feature Boy Scouts and a Marine group, who will post the flags, two guest speakers who will speak on patriotism and the honor of serving and are veterans in the area, lunch for veterans, she said. The band will play and the choir will sing, and veterans will also see a special theater production related to Marc’s letter. Veteran’s will also hear a special version of award-winning country singer Carrie Underwood’s “I’ll stand by you,” and more, she said. She wants her students to “be the hands and feet of service,” she said.

“It’s been really neat to see the freshmen. This is a really neat group and they have a big heart,” Minton said. “They have a desire to serve, they really do. They know I love to serve, too. So, we talk a lot about what it means to serve and they’re excited right now. They’re on fire right now. They know what they’re doing makes a difference. A lot of times you hear the negatives about teenagers, I’m not saying the negatives aren’t out there. I’m just saying the good is out there, too. If you look, you can find it.”

For Angela Lewis, a Ninth Grade Academy nurse, the program has a more personal tie. She not only helped Minton find the theme, but her husband has worked with Debbie in the past, she said. Her husband served nine years in Operation Desert Storm, an offensive military campaign to enforce resolutions against Iraq’s violence in Kuwait, as a tank mechanic. Both Lewis and her husband will be at this year’s program, she said.

“I hope that the children are able to take something from this and that it influences them to actually do something helpful to our community, especially to our veterans, because a lot of our veterans don’t feel appreciated,” she said.

Students’ relatives and parents, who are veterans, as well as staff who have veterans in their families or are veterans themselves will also attend, Minton said. Showing that kindness and appreciation is the most important thing she said because many people in the area either know a veteran or are a veteran themselves.

“Every job in the program is important, and I’ve told them (the students) that as you see them come in, you just say, ‘Thank you for your service.’ You can’t say that too much. Just say it over and over.”

Those that want to attend or have further questions about the event can contact Minton at lminton@wisd.org. Though veterans aren’t required to RSVP, Minton said it is preferred, that way they can make sure there are plenty of seats to honor everyone. The Ninth Grade Academy is located at 1001 U.S. Highway 77 North in Waxahachie.

“Honor people who have served and how difficult it is for them to return to civilian life,” Lewis said. “Just giving somebody, even if they haven’t served, just giving them a coat or giving them a meal, can go a long way.”

Contact Shelly at 469-517-1452 or shelly.conlon@waxahachietx.com. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ShellyConlonDailyLight or follow her on Twitter at ShellyConlonWDL.