Local public safety personnel and veterans lined up Monday in Holy Rosary Catholic School’s cafeteria alongside students for trays of spaghetti and salad.
It was Holy Rosary’s sixth annual Heroes’ Lunch.
The students had just finished a flag ceremony in front of the school honoring first responders who gave their lives during the 9/11 attack that devastated the country 16 years ago, as well as the men and women who continue to serve locally.
Kids shushed each other as an American flag was raised, then settled at half-staff on a warm, clear day.
“This event is to thank the people that keep us safe in our community and our country,” Principal Carina VanPelt said. “And September 11 is a day that obviously, in the recent history of our country, rings more true to some of the people that are in this generation.”
Several dozen adults attended the lunch, including officers from the Idaho Falls Police Department and Bonneville County Sheriff’s Department, as well as American Legion veterans.
Elementary grade students with faux badges stuck to their chests sat down to eat with the adults. Some had lunchboxes in tow; others ate spaghetti, but most were excited to strike up conversations with the officers.
“We get to have a little bit of fun talking to them; it’s enjoyable,” IFPD Capt. Royce Clements said. “We’ve been talking about everything from the color of their neckties, to if I like doughnuts and how long I’ve been a policeman.”
Clements has attended the lunch since its inaugural year. He said it’s important for children to understand the role of public safety officers locally and elsewhere.
“It’s good for them to realize, yeah, there are some really bad people in the world, and there’s other people who are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice to help and protect other people. And 9/11 is the ultimate example of that,” Clements said.
Many kids stuck around long after they finished eating to continue talking up the officers.
Sixth-grader Gracie White, 12, said the event shows officers and veterans how appreciated they are in the community.
“It’s important to make them feel welcome,” she said. “You can never appreciate them enough. They do a lot of things for us, and they care about us and what’s happening in the area. They’re here when we need help.”
Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 208-542-6762.