By Chris McGuinness
Killeen Daily Herald
Students and staff in the Liberty Hill Middle School cafeteria erupted in applause as a group of local airmen and first responders filed through the doors for a luncheon Wednesday.
Members of the Killeen Police Department, fire department and members of the Air Force's 9th Air Support Operations Squadron were invited by the school for a complementary meal.
"The best way to honor someone is with good food," Liberty Hill Principal Brandon Bringhurst said.
In addition to their meal, the guests of honor were treated to a performance by the school's Girls Concert Choir.
Seventh-grade student Angelica Cortez was chosen by school staff to read a poem titled "Our Heroes" as part of the presentation.
"It's important to let them know that there are people who care about them," Cortez said. "I felt very special when they asked me to read (the poem)."
After the performances, many students came up to the tables and thanked the troops and first responders. Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Denny said he and the other members of the squadron were honored by the warm welcome.
"I think it's just fantastic, and it really means a lot to all of us," Denny said.
Bringhurst said the 9th is the school's "adopted" squadron, and it often helps or participates in school events.
The luncheon was just one of several events schools in the Killeen Independent School District are participating in as part of a weeklong series of community events in memory of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The district also hosts its sixth annual Freedom Walk for members of the community at 9:30 a.m. Friday at Leo Buckley Stadium.