COSTA MESA — More than 200 veterans, spanning multiple generations and wars, were honored Friday morning at the annual Mariners Christian School Red, White and Blue Breakfast.
"It's about respect and honoring the sacrifices that those who came before us made," said Dwight Hanson, 42, who served in the Marines during the Gulf War.
Hanson followed in his father's footsteps, who served during World War II, and said he would be proud if any of his three children enrolled at Mariners, who span second to eighth grade, also enlisted.
He teaches his children to seek out veterans and thank them whenever possible, in part so that they can carry on the veterans' stories to their own grandchildren one day.
"It's important because if you forget the past, you don't know where you're going," Hanson said.
The breakfast was followed by an assembly in which four World War II veterans shared their stories with the students and attending parents and grandparents.
"Black ink on a white page doesn't have much of a meaning, and a photograph can only supplement what's on the page," said Pearl Harbor survivor and former Navy Corpsman Jack Hammett, 91, one of the featured speakers.
"But when you have a survivor there talking with you, the impact is more tangible to students," Hammett continued.
As a "living history" speaker with the Freedom Committee of Orange County, Hammett helped teach U.S. history to 60,000 students this year.
"Seeing the people who've survived reminds me that what the Lord tells us is true — all things through Him are possible," said seventh-grader Caroline Chavos, 12, whose grandfather served in the Army during World War II.
"It makes me realize how grateful I am to have people who've sacrificed and served for us," she added.