Of all the special events on the elementary school calendar this fall, the one my kindergartner is looking forward to most is the school’s Veterans Day assembly on Nov. 11. Why? Because he knows his grandfather, an Army veteran, will come to his school.

Whether your school is planning a big Veterans Day event or a simple observance, you can make it more meaningful to students by helping them see a personal connection to their lives. It can be hard for some students to understand what a veteran is, but it makes a big impression on them if they learn that someone they know served in Vietnam or Iraq.

Ask around to find out if any school staff members are veterans, and if they are willing to share their experiences with students. Last year students at Pioneer Heritage Middle School in Frisco, Texas, discovered they had a personal connection to the conflict in Afghanistan. A science teacher and Army reservist shared her experiences with students during a week of PTO-sponsored activities to raise awareness and raise funds for a local veterans memorial. The teacher demonstrated how to pack and carry a 50-pound rucksack, letting students try it on for size. (The week of activities earned the PTO the 2014 Parent Group of the Year award for Outstanding Community Service.)

Another option is to invite veterans or active-duty service members from the community. Each year the J.E.J. Moore Middle School in Disputanta, Va., invites active-duty soldiers to a candid question and answer session, called “Straight Talk With Soldiers.” Classes write thank-you notes to the soldiers, as well as notes that are sent to other veterans in the community.

Or you can invite students’ family members who served to the school and recognize them during a program, like my son’s school does. After last year’s program, my son and his grandfather had their photo taken in front of a patriotic backdrop. The photo was included in a special spread in the yearbook. As an early elementary student, my son is still learning what Veterans Day is all about, but what he does knows is that it’s a special day, and that his grandfather is among a very special group of people.