World War II veteran Dick Graff poses with Forestville Elementary students, from left, Timothy Hutchinson, Caroline Keys, Sydney Pham, Angelina Rossi, Aditya Khera and David Vargas. (Deanna Keys)

What do a small group of students, four World War II veterans and more than 1,000 snow cones have in common?

Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.

Snow cones for veterans

Kids at Forestville Elementary School in Great Falls started raising money last spring for Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, an organization that helps World War II veterans in Wisconsin fly to Washington to see the World War II Memorial. (Stars and Stripes is part of a bigger organization that flies veterans to Washington from all over the country.)

“Since the World War II Memorial wasn’t built until 60 years after the war, a lot of the vets couldn’t come to see it. We decided to pitch in to make it easier,” said sixth-grader Jake West, 12, whose grandfather served in the Navy in World War II. (The memorial opened in 2004.)

The kids sold almost 500 snow cones at their first event, a school kickball game on a hot day last spring. They also passed out DVDs of a documentary about the flights, called “Honor Flight,” for donations. They have raised $2,000 so far to pay for four veterans to come to Washington.

Talking to the vets

But the money is only part of the story. The kids, who know one another through the after-school Odyssey of the Mind program, have gone to Dulles International Airport twice to greet the veterans, most recently on November 2. They take thank-you cards from their classmates to hand out to the vets, and, most important, they talk to the vets about their service.

They plan to continue raising money for the vets and will greet another plane in April.

“First they come out of the airplane and walk into the airport; there’s this look of awe and amazement on their faces that all these people have come out to see them,” said sixth-grader Sydney Pham, 11. “They say they didn’t realize this many people care about what they did.”

The kids agreed that the stories the vets and their relatives tell are important.

“Lots of time you don’t know what they’re going to say,” said Jake, who has listened to the veterans tell stories about being a fighter pilot, being on a ship or fighting the Japanese.

Last spring, said Gwyneth Murphy, 12, “when we were passing out the DVDs, as the people came along and donated, people had stories. . . . One man said he had four uncles and one aunt and . . . they all served.”

Respect the day

Monday is Veterans Day, which is a good day to think about the men and women who served and are still serving in the United States military.

“You think about how lucky you are,” said sixth-grader Caroline Keys, 11, when asked what she had learned from the project. “And now I really think about how much freedom I have and how things could have been different.”

Moira E. McLaughlin