FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Kasey Carr, an administrative assistant at Irwin Elementary School, will be the first to tell you her favorite time of the year isn’t summer break, but Veterans Day.

Carr is an Air Force veteran herself, having served in Iraq for 6.5 months. She worked in information management doing paperwork, logging, and data. Upon her arrival in Iraq, she was awarded an Army Commendation Medal.

“When I got there, the security had been compromised so all the computers on base we had to reformat, we worked like two weeks straight, 14-hour days to get everything back up and running,” she said.

Credit: Kasey Carr

For the past 8 years at Irwin, Carr has organized the school’s annual Veterans Day program. It’s been steadily growing since she took charge of it in her first year.

“I know what they go through so that’s why I try to give them everything that I think they deserve,” said Carr.

About 10 veterans attended the first program she headed up. By 2019, that number had grown to 35. Most of the veterans are directly related and closely connected to Irwin staff and students.

Carr works on the program all year long. She arranges for staff from JC Penny to give the veterans free haircuts and makeovers before the program, and breakfast is provided free of charge. The program itself features veteran speakers and performances, and members from the reserve base typically attend the event and post the colors. Carr also arranges raffle prizes and gift bags for each veteran in attendance.

Credit: Brandy Herriman

“I just want them to know how much we appreciate them, how much we value them,” said Carr. “I want them to take a little small token of appreciation home with them that day. I know we can’t give them everything that they’re worth, but hopefully they see the effort that we are trying to show them that we are more than thankful for everything that you’ve done for us, for the country, your families, we appreciate it all.”

With young students also attending the program, Carr says it’s a good learning opportunity for them to better understand who veterans are and the sacrifices they make.

“The military is not all about fighting, going to war, these are people that care a lot for this country, that would give their life for this country because they love this country so much,” she said. “Like when I served, I took that chance. It’s like I know I have a family, but If I have to give up my today for somebody else’s tomorrow, I was willing to do that.”

Kasey Carr is proud of her own service, and proud to highlight Veterans in her own special way, every year.

Credit: Kasey Carr

“[Veterans] are amazing. Veterans come in all sizes, colors, different environments but at the end of the day we have the same heart, the same goal and that was to protect and serve.”

Carr says the community has helped to make the program what it is today, too. Local restaurants and businesses, including Sweetwater, the TinCaps, and DeBrand Fine Chocolates donate gift cards and other items that fill the gift bags or serve as raffle prizes. In 2019, she was able to secure a weekend trip to Chicago, including a hotel stay and tickets to the Shedd Aquarium.

“We’re just so appreciative because not only do can we gift everybody individually with gift bags full of stuff but I’m able to  give everybody a ticket when they come in and it’s like the highlight of the program where I’m able to raffle off $250 to target, $100 to Kroger, dinner and a movie night,” said Carr. “It makes my heart warm, cause I’m able to give back to those that were willing to risk it all for our country. It’s the least I can do, I wish I could do more, that’s why hopefully somebody sees this and says ‘oh how can we help?’”

If any businesses or restaurants want to donate to the program, they can call Irwin Elementary School at 260-467-5310 and ask for Kasey Carr.