LEXINGTON — Drew and Jana Reichelderfer sat at the lunch tables in the Central Elementary cafeteria, their four-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son perched between them.
“I think her eyes are bigger than her stomach,” Jana said, eyeing the two donuts on her daughter’s plate.
The Reichelderfers enjoyed a special breakfast together Friday in honor of Veteran’s Day.
Staff from Central Elementary and Western Elementary organized the breakfast as part of the district’s Purple Star program, which recognizes students with parents or stepparents in the military. About 30 families attended the event.
Drew and Jana met as members of the same Army National Guard unit.
“It’s definitely nice to know that we’re a part of a school district that takes pride in their veterans,” said Drew, who’s in the 16th year of his military career.
Purple Star students meet once a month at Lexington’s three elementary schools. Purple Star groups connect students with peers who understand the unique challenges military families face.
Jana said their son looks forward to the monthly Purple Star student gatherings.
“I think he feels pretty special about it,” she said. “It means a lot to him.”
Kelli Dyer is a physical education teacher at Western Elementary and the school’s Purple Star Liaison.
She’s also a Chief Master Sergeant with the Ohio Air National Guard’s 179th Cyberspace Wing.
“My favorite part is getting the families together, sharing that same connectedness and letting them know that we’re here for them and that those kids are not alone,” Dyer said.
“They can kind of connect and share their struggles and triumphs and together.”
Brigadier General Matthew S. Woodruff, Assistant Adjutant General of the Ohio Army National Guard, attended the event and gave a brief keynote speech.
Woodruff served alongside Central Elementary Principal Scott Curtis, who retired as a lieutenant after ten years in the Army.
A father of three, Woodruff encouraged the kids to build strong bonds with their siblings and fellow military children.
“I know it’s hard to have mom and dad go away. I know you miss them when they go away. I know they love you and I hope you know that too,” he said. “They miss you just as much when they’re gone.”
He also urged families to make the most of time together.
“When your mom or dad comes back from training, deployments, you need to take time to make sure those times are special,” he said.
“Parents, that’s your responsiblity to make that time special. It doesn’t become special by gifts or things like that. It’s the dedication of your time to ensure that your kid feels loved, your spouse feels loved. Take advantage of that time.”