CENTEREACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Next week on Veterans Day, the nation will honor the 22-million living veterans who have served this country.

On Tuesday, one soldier shared her story of service with kindergarten students on Long Island.

Nichole Milani’s biggest sacrifice is the time she misses with one of the young students — her own daughter.

As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, among the kids greeting Milani was her 5-year-old daughter Jada. Her big hug was evidence of the pride she has in her mom who has served the last 11 years in the Army.

Staff at the Unity Drive Pre-K and Kindergarten in Centereach asked Milani to speak to the youngsters about the meaning of Veteran’s Day.

“We all work together as a team to make sure we get our mission done,” Milani said.

Milani joined the Army as a 17-year-old and has since served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. She told students that Veteran’s Day is about serving your country, but the next generation was most fascinated by her uniform — asking just how many pockets there are.

Ultimately they counted 13, including one hidden inside Milani’s cap, but that’s not all they wanted to know.

“So I can camouflage myself in any environment, no one can see me,” she explained following a question about the colors on her uniform.

As her daughter spoke about missing her mother while she’s away, the veteran began to tear up.

“Look at my picture of her with me in it,” she said.

Milani choked back tears while acknowledging that the long separations and constant moving has been the biggest sacrifice for her country.

“I do it for her and her sister, they have a really good life because of the Army. The Army has done a lot for us,” she said.

The eager young students are so impressed with Milani’s dedication. They’re pledging to personalize hundreds of Veteran’s Day cards to be sent to veterans hospitals across the region.

As for Milani, she’s preparing for her next deployment to a NATO base in Poland.

 

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