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For a little while on Friday morning, the Washington County High School gym served as a memorial for veterans.
“You know today, you hear a lot of talk about heroes from Kobe, LeBron, Tom Brady, and so forth and so on,” Paul Terrell, WCHS principal said. “But the real heroes are the people sitting to my right and left. They are the heroes of our time.”
The heroes he was referring to were local veterans, nearly 50 in attendance, who came out to celebrate Veteran’s Day.
There was art to honor the service members, song, and music from the high school band. Words praising the veterans were spoken by students and members of the high school staff. The deceased were honored, all the way back to World War I.
The Future Farmers of America demonstrated the proper way to fold a flag, and senior Jacob Settles informed the audience the meaning of each fold.
Settles’ uncle, Carl Gabhart, a veteran and the mayor of Mackville, was presented the flag at the end of the morning service.
“We try to give this flag each year to different parts of the community,” Terrell said. “It’s gone around town some, and we want to now try to expand that out into the county some.”
Sophomore Brian Powers brought on big cheers when he sang a Toby Keith rendition, “Made in America.”
The keynote speaker, Sgt. First Class Michael L. Osbourne, brought the biggest round of applause, however.
Osbourne is the embodiment of Washington County, having attended grade school through college inside the county lines.
He served in Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990’s, and was recently injured during a rocket attack during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in late 2010. He has been enlisted in the Kentucky National Guard since 1980.
“Thank you for setting the example that inspired me and my peers to raise our hands and volunteer service for this great nation,” he said to veterans in attendance. “That shared service joins us together like no other bond. The camaraderie and fellowship we share in military service helps define us, and often profoundly changes our character and redirects our paths in life. I can honestly say that the time I spent as a member of the Kentucky Army National Guard has been the best of my life. And that service, even after I leave the military, will stay with me and define me for the rest of my life.”
Osbourne asked those in attendance to take time to honor service members, past and present, in at least one way.
First, he said, volunteer to help a veteran or service member.
“We have many wounded veterans in our world who need compassion and your support,” he said. “Find a way to help them, whether through veterans affairs offices or state and local outreach programs.”
Secondly, he said, make an effort to promote military service to the nation’s youth.
“In a time of war, volunteers for service are hard to find,” Osbourne said. “I think promoting military service goes beyond that. We need to do a better job of letting our younger generation know that the military is a viable and valuable career option with unlimited opportunities.”
Finally, he said, veterans should take the time to share their stories.
“Let people know what you’ve done, so that they can see the many faces of the military service and appreciate the personal service of their neighbors,” he said. “If you are not a veteran, find someone in your life who is and ask them about their service or simply say thank you.”
Osbourne also noted his appreciation to those who supported him and his family during his deployment to Afghanistan, and his recovery from injuries obtained there.
“Over those months I was deployed, I got several letters, cards and care packages from individuals, church groups and places like the VFW and other such organizations,” he said. “Of course, I shared those with my fellow soldiers, and you cannot believe the impact that has on those men and women that serve over there.”
Osbourne left the podium to a standing ovation, and the living memorial inside the Washington County High School gym continued to honor veterans, past and present, through fellowship and food.