For 91 years the United States has honored Americans who serve or have served in our country’s military by proclaiming the eleventh day of the eleventh month as Veterans Day. Washington County High School hosted one such celebration on Thursday, inviting all who have served to take part in the salute, and to remember those who served, but are no longer with us.
“We at Washington County High School respect all of our veterans and we want to honor them,” said WCHS Principal Paul Terrell. “I want to remind our students what these brave men and women have done, and what they have done for you, and some of you will probably do the same for future generations.”
The ceremony’s invocation was given by Clara Mudd, followed by the presentation of the colors by members of the Kentucky National Guard.
WCHS history teacher Matthew Garrett led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, while Dani Burns followed with the singing of the National Anthem.
Assistant principal Tim Messer recognized all of the dignitaries in attendance and teacher Harry VanWhy read the names of deceased veterans from Washington County.
Members of the WCHS Future Farmers of America demonstrated why the American flag is folded 13 times and the meaning behind each fold.
“The next time you see a flag ceremony honoring someone who has served our country, either in the armed forces or civilian services such as police force or fire department, keep in mind all the important reasons behind each and every movement. They paid the ultimate sacrifice for all of us by honoring our flag and our country,” said FFA president Stephen Cecconi.
Teacher Ryan New asked for a moment of silence to remember those veterans who are deceased. He then read the names of veterans in attendance.
Next to the podium was student Katie Cambron, who presented the audience with her speech titled “Heroes of Yesterday.”
“Veterans have played a monumental role in America’s history,” said Cambron. “From the Revolutionary War to the war on terrorism, these brave men and women are our heroes of yesterday. Often, veterans go unrecognized and do not receive the level of gratitude and praise they so deeply deserve. Without these selfless and courageous individuals, we probably wouldn’t enjoy the numerous liberties and freedoms we so frequently take for granted.”
The WCHS band played a medley of military songs before student Will Begley addressed the crowd with his speech “A Salute to America’s Finest.”
“Honor. Courage. Commitment. These three simple words are the very foundation of the military we are celebrating today,” said Begley. “These are the foundations of service of the citizens around us today and what they have done for our country. These words define the people we call veterans. It is most appropriate for us today to salute you, who have protected us in our ultimate defense.”
Former WCHS history teacher Tom Ellis introduced Brigadier General Howard P. Hunt as the ceremony’s guest speaker.
“I want you to know, Washington County High School, I’m looking into the face of our future and what I see is potential greatness in each and every one of you,” said Hunt. “What I appreciate today is your obvious respect for veterans and your patriotism.”
Hunt also addressed the high school students to give them a better understanding of what the military means to our country.
“The military is made up of ordinary men and women who have been defending this country for over 200 years,” added Hunt. “Every veteran knows about the sacrifices they have made. Every branch of the military has a different colored uniform, and I refer to those as the fabric of our nation, because combined, they cover our nation with strength and protection for our liberty and freedom. By undertaking this duty to sacrifice for others, they may never know for those they may disagree with, our veterans have taken the idea of a free nation and turned it into reality.”
Although this one day is set aside to honor U.S. veterans, Hunt told those in attendance everyone who lives in a free and democratic America needs to thank the brave men and women of our military every day for the freedoms we enjoy today.
“American veterans have answered the call to duty, and that is why we honor them today, but we really should honor them every day for their service,” Hunt said. “Today’s veterans are the custodians of tradition. Every one of them beside me here knows what that means. They are the continuity between generations. They know the misery of endless training, the challenges and sacrifices of taking the fight to the enemy, and they know the joy of touching American soil again. Don’t pass up the opportunity to thank a veteran. Would you pass up the opportunity to thank somebody that has contributed to saving your life and allowing you to be where you are today? I don’t.”
Following Gen. Hunt’s speech, WCHS student Brian Powers, accompanied by assistant principal Brett Hudson on acoustic guitar, performed the song “American Soldier” by Toby Keith. Fellow student Benji Gaona then played “Taps” on the trumpet, and Terrell presented the flag folded by the FFA to Hazel Nichols of the Ladies Military Auxillary. That brought the formal ceremony to a close. Following the event, the veterans and guests were treated to a luncheon prepared by Sarah Raikes, Traci Brown and students from the family and consumer sciences class.
Those in attendance, both young and old, had a greater appreciation of our military and a better understanding that America would not be the same today if not for the sacrifices of those in uniform.