MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Students at UMS Wright Preparatory School gathered to celebrate Veterans Day Friday morning with a message from a special guest.

Nathan Cox grew up hearing the Veteran’s Day speeches at UMS Wright Preparatory School.

“All of them sitting out there look just like I did, about when I was their age and the message had always resonated with me and gave me that feeling in my stomach like someone was talking directly to me,” Cox said.

Friday morning, Cox shared that message he grew up hearing with the students of UMS Wright.

“My message today was challenging the next generation to answer the call to serve,” Cox said.

In 2004 Cox joined the U.S. Marines after graduating from the University of Alabama where he played football. He told students that after 911 he tried to enlist, but recruiters told Cox to finish school.

He deployed to Iraq in 2005 and 2006.

“I’m counting on them, those who have gone before me are counting on them to answering the call to keep this country the way it is and that’s the greatest one on earth. But if it’s not them answering the call to serve and the next generation of leaders than who else is expected to do it,” Cox said.

That next generation of leaders led the school in celebration with music and the soldier’s prayer to honor veterans.

“Honoring those who served for us and who can really keep this country alive and everything that they do,” UMS Wright Junior, Luke Phillips said.

Phillips’ Grandfather served for 25 years in the Army Reserves.

“Readiness does begin in the heart of a soldier or a student,” Army Reserves veteran, Tommy Smith said.

Cox said that the families of veterans deserve recognition as well.

“But the families are the ones stuck at home worried to death about our safety and our welfare and they’re away from us. They’re really the ones who deserve so much of the credit as well,” Cox said.