By Steve Pickett, CBS 11 News

RICHARDSON (CBSDFW.COM) – America is remembering its veterans today – those serving now, and the past.

Vice President Joe Biden carried out the tradition of laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

Here in North Texas, taps, a flyover and cannon salute honored those buried at DFW National Cemetery.

Some Richardson school students attended a special Veterans Day service that included a hidden surprise that they won’t soon forget.

At the Richardson Independent School District’s Lake Highlands Elementary, the lesson plan for this school day would come from the beat of a different drummer.

Words about honor from dignitaries and flags handed out to 1st graders were all part of the school’s Veterans Day recognition service.

But then came a surprise. Sergeant James Williams is the soldier who became an educational lifeline for 5th graders at the school; all while the 27-year-old served in Iraq.

For the past year, students sent Sgt. Williams letters, e-mails and Facebook messages.

And on this Veterans Day, those same youngsters received a personal thank you from the soldier. “Letting the kids know there are people out there doing things for them, and are willing to put their lives on the line so they can go to school everyday,” said the soldier.

Student Scottie Douglas was in shock when Sgt. Williams arrived. “When I saw him walk through there, I couldn’t believe it.”

There was also a present of sorts for the students. The flag that flew over the base where Sgt. Williams is stationed was presented to the school.

Sgt. Williams is only home for a visit, but on this Veterans Day home is where the heart is and the students of Lake Highlands Elementary received that lesson from a soldier with his surprise visit for them.

Sergeant Williams is from Plano. His sister teaches at Lake highlands and collaborated with others to start the letter writing program to soldiers.

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