. . . and their grandsons.
More about that in just a minute.
Washington County High School does a lot of things well, but do you know what they do great?
It’s their Veteran’s Day program, which they have been holding for the past several years.
I’ve been told by many people that I ought to stop in and see why so many veterans look forward to attending this program every year.
My curiosity was piqued, and I attended it early on this past Friday, Nov. 4.
It’s one of the few times that my expectations were exceeded.
WCHS teacher Matthew Garrett is the main organizer for the event.
If I were to describe it in as few words as possible, I would say it is an old-fashion, flag waving, patriotic song-singing, young people cheering, audience clapping, speech giving, God invoking ceremony where love of country, love of God, and gratitude for those that have and are serving in the Armed Forces reigns supreme.
If you can’t come away feeling good about our young people and having a little more confidence in the future of the USA, then you just don’t have any soul.
The event itself is attended by all the young men and women of the school, who sat respectfully through the ceremony and cheered all the veterans several times.
It starts with an invocation, reminding us of the mightiness of our Lord, and proceeds on to a color guard from the Kentucky National Guard, the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag, and the National Anthem which was sung by Brian Powers.
The WCHS FFA Chapter, expertly narrated by FFA President Jacob Settles, told the meaning of the folding of the American flag while it was demonstrated by FFA members Steve Cecconi, Shelby Spalding, Payton Carrico, Taylor Smith, Dylan Smith, Russell Hardin, Emily White, and Michael Benedict. It would make you proud to see Old Glory, the symbol of all those that fought to keep us free, being so respectfully and lovingly handled.
There were two speeches given by Katie Cambron and Will Begley, while the WCHS band gave a very professional rendition of the “Armed Forces on Parade.”
There was more besides, but I can’t fit it all in this column.
This all leads me to the keynote speaker, who was Sgt. First Class Michael Osbourne. It was a perfect choice for more reasons than one. Here’s why.
Bud and Geneva Osbourne raised one big old family down on Eddleman Court in Springfield. My family lived next to them. Yep, it’s hard to believe but including the Osbournes, Begleys, Warrens, and few other families, there were some 30 kids in that little neighborhood for awhile back in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Bud was a big, tough man, and Geneva was a beautiful, kind woman with a heart of gold. It was a powerful combination of opposites that produced really great kids, that grew up into really great adults.
Michael is a 31-year vet with a brother named Francis, who is about a 33-year vet in the National Guard. Both are still in today. I might be wrong, but I think their brother, Roger, also served in the guard. In addition, Michael’s two sons serve in the guard, and Francis’ son serves in the guard. They have all served in different units around the state, and in total there are several deployments to war zones at different times counting the first Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
It’s my belief that Washington County has not produced this many individuals from one family serving on active and reserve duty at the same time since possibly World War II. It would be interesting for one of our local historians to attempt to verify this.
Michael was in Afghanistan last December when the base he was serving came under enemy mortar attack. He was hit and suffered severe wounds. He continues to be in rehabilitation to this day.
When it came time for Michael to come to the podium for his speech, he slowly rose from his chair with help from his wife. He used a cane to make his way across the gym. Michael, like his father, is well over six-feet tall. The room went silent as he slowly, with effort, made his way to the podium.
Michael didn’t wear his uniform with all his medals, of which he has many, but came dressed causally like most of the other veterans that day.
You could hear a pin drop in the gym as we waited for him to speak.
His words came not as from a grizzled old sergeant barking out orders, but calm, soft, and with the authoritative voice of one that knew what real sacrifice was all about. It commanded attention for that reason.
Michael talked about everything but himself or his own sacrifice. There’s no self pity there. He talked about all the people around him on that floor. He talked about wanting the youth to know that all true veterans want to hand down the country as free and beautiful as we found it. He had hopes that they would one day do the same.
Michael started to leave the podium as he finished, but then came back. He had to thank all those who had helped him and his family, both here in the states and overseas while he was deployed. It was important for him to acknowledge this for all to hear. He left the podium to a standing ovation, as he stepped back out of the limelight and made his way back to his wife.
The ceremony ended with Brian Powers singing “Made in America” and “Taps” played by Benji Gaona.
It was a humbling experience for me that day.
Somewhere you can be sure that Michael’s dad, Bud Osbourne, was standing proud, and his loving mother, Geneva, knew they had done well.
Thank you, Michael.
We can’t repay everything you have done and given for us.
The price was too high.
But we know you wouldn’t expect it.
(Writer’s note: Jaclyn Jones, Washington County Community Education Director helped with publicity, invitations, programs and Service Learning Funds to help make this ceremony possible. Mrs. Sarah Raikes, Mrs. Traci Blandford, and the family and consumer sciences students provided a wonderful meal after the program.)