Physical education teacher Mark Haesly was the guest of honor at a Crestview Elementary School and Nuevas Fronteras Veterans Day celebration Nov. 10 — only he didn't know it.
The celebration was planned as a surprise for Haesly, who is retiring at the end of the year after 21 years at Crestview, and 37 years teaching.
Haesly was led to a red carpet that he walked down as the students stood around him clapping and cheering.
"It's one of the best things that's happened in my life," he said.
Haesly served in the Navy from 1974 to 1980, in a ship just back from Vietnam.
He and the rest of the crew would go out to sea and listen for Russian submarines. Haesly said he was a torpedoman on the ship, and shot nine during his time.
Most kids in the school didn't know about his military background before the ceremony, and he said it was "overwhelming" to see them all cheering and clapping for him.
Students also presented him with a painting of an American flag they had created by each student placing a fingerprint on it.
Haesly said he will miss the kids and the school after he retires in May.
Chad Pederson, Steve Sandberg, Guillermo Gandara and Bob Heinz were also honored at the Veterans Day event.