More than 500 San Marcos elementary school students lined up, waved flags and welcomed Central Texas veterans Friday morning.

Irene Mendez Elementary School partnered with the Travis County Sheriff Office and Skydive San Marcos to put together the seventh annual Wounded Warriors Leap. The students from Mendez Elementary gathered around Peter Garza Drive by their school with flags in hand, welcoming both the Wounded Warriors and their families.

Karen McGowan has been principal at Mendez Elementary for five years and said this is one of her favorite traditions to uphold.

“We’ve continued to do this because we want to teach the kids about the importance of our armed forces and our first responders,” McGowan said. “It’s important to teach them that sense of patriotism, and what better way to honor the men and women that are injured fighting for our freedom.”

After the San Marcos Police Department escorted the Wounded Warriors through the students’ welcoming, everyone went inside the gymnasium where the fifth graders put together a presentation. The presentation ended with the third, fourth and fifth graders all singing “God Bless the U.S.A.”

“This brings it all to the forefront of really what our country’s all about,” McGowan said. “Seeing the young faces sing those songs is kind of a tear jerker.”

Friday afternoon’s ceremony hit home for Juan Arredondo, who has been a part of the Wounded Warriors Leap all seven years of its existence. He is an outreach specialist for the Wounded Warriors project and lost his arm while serving in Iraq.

“Today represents honor and support from the community,” Arredondo said. “This means the world to us. It represents a great day.”

After the presentation, the students presented hand-written cards and letters for the veterans, including Arredondo.

“I wish I had a house big enough to fill my wall with these papers that I get,” Arredondo said. “It means the world to receive this from one of these kids.”

The Wounded Warriors finished their Friday by going to Skydive San Marcos as they were treated to tandem skydives. To learn more about the Wounded Warrior Project, you can visit their website here.