By Tracy Clemons
STAUNTON, Ill. (KSDK) - One week after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, veterans across the country are standing guard at schools in their hometowns. These veterans are standing watch outside elementary schools to make students feel safe.
For two days, Sergeant Ed Reitmeyer has stood in front of Staunton Elementary and Junior High school out of respect for the victims of the shooting.
"I'm hoping it gives the kids a sense of feeling safe," he says.
He tells us he saw a story on Facebook about a few marines doing this in other parts of the country, and asked the principal if he could stand watch.
"My stepdaughter goes to school here and I figured I work afternoons so my days are open. Might as well dig out an old uniform and do the same, do whatever it takes to help the kids out. If it makes the kids feel better, then I'll do it," he said.
"I think it just adds a little bit of a sense of safety, the presence here with the elementary students. They see him, they respect him," says Principal Brooke Wiemers.
Many parents have stopped to say thank you.
"They've been so supportive. I've had so many cups of hot chocolate and coffee today. Everybody keeps bringing me stuff," said Reitmeyer.
And he says the kids have enjoyed having him around.
"Yesterday after lunch they all drug me around the halls and took me to their classrooms and showed me their desks and all their little projects. It was a great time I had a blast," said Reitmeyer.
As the school continues to honor the memory of those victims, like with a care package full of snowflakes for Sandy Hook, Wiemers says there's a sense of reassurance in the air.
"I think when the students arrived here this morning and they were coming up the sidewalk and saw him here again today, it just created a sense of everything is going to be ok. We're going to be fine," she said.
Sgt. Reitmeyer says he plans to be right back at the school when classes resume after winter break. And he encourages any other veterans in the area to join him.