NEW PARIS —National Trail Local Schools took the opportunity on Friday, Nov. 10, to honor local veterans in celebration of Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
The program was filled with different tributes to those who have served, from musical numbers to touching speeches.
Superintendent Jeff Parker opened the ceremony by informing those in attendance that Veterans Day is one of the school days he most looks forward to.
“I’m extremely proud of a lot of things that happen at National Trail, but this day, by far, is the proudest day of the school year,” he said. “I have reminded all those in attendance that the time that we spend in this ceremony honoring our veterans is as important or more important than anything we do at National Trail schools throughout the entire school year.
“The most important information that these students are going to learn here today is because of the veterans who are in the room and the veterans who are not in the room. If it weren’t for their sacrifices and their families sacrifices, we wouldn’t get to do the important things that we get to do.
“America has stood the test of time as the greatest county in the world, because of the sacrifice that these veterans and their families have made.”
Next was the Presentation of Colors by the Preble County Honor Guard and the Select Honor Guard of National Trail Class of 2012. Then the National Anthem was observed, before the Star Spangled Banner was sung.
Jr. Honor Society Vice-President Brooklyn Middleton led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Folding of the Flag was performed by the Select Honor Guard of National Trail Class of 2020 and was narrated by Hannah Lee.
Next, National Trail Fourth Grade Chorus performed “Thank You, Soldier,” followed by the Ceremony of Candles, narrated by Malerie Hermann, Class of 2020.
The ceremony is when these students took the opportunity to call out the number of lives lost during every war the United States of America has been a part of. A candle was extinguished for every war, signifying the lost lives.
Jason Hoke escorted Wyatt House, Jenna Pettit, Hannah Lee, and Paige Lee in a wreath presentation, then a moment of silence was observed during the 21 gun salute and playing of Taps, by the Preble County Honor Guard.
Ron Garnett, Commander of the Preble County Honor Guard, also read the POW/MIA presentation.
Standing beside a small round table, he read, “Those who have served and those currently serving the uniformed services of the United States are ever mindful that the sweetness of enduring peace has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice. We are compelled to never forget that while we enjoy our daily pleasures, there are others who have endured and may still be enduring the agonies of pain, deprivation and internment. We pause to recognize our POWs and MIAs.
“I call to your attention this small table, which occupies a place of dignity and honor. It is set for one, symbolizing the fact that members of our armed forces are missing from our ranks. They are referred to as POWs/MIAs. We call them comrades.
“They are unable to be with their loved ones and families, so we join together to pay our humble tribute to them, and bear witness to their continued absence. This table is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, alone against his or her suppressors.
“The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms. The single rose in the vase, signifies the blood they many have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America. This rose also reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep faith, while awaiting their return.
“The red ribbon on the vase represents the red ribbons worn on the lapels of the thousands who demand with unyielding determination a proper accounting of our comrades who are not among us tonight. A slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate.
“The salt sprinkled on the plate reminds us of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait. The glass is inverted, they cannot toast with us at this time. The chair is empty — they are not here. The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to the open arms of a grateful nation.
“The American flag reminds us that many of them may never return and have paid a great sacrifice to ensure our freedoms. Let us pray to God that all of our comrades will soon be back within our ranks. Let us remember and never forget their sacrifices. May God forever watch over them and protect them and their families.”
Several more musical tributes were held and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department also honored veterans with different presentations.
Eighth grade advisor James Patrick shared his closing thoughts, “Every year when we go to Washington D.C. with the eighth grade class they impress me so much. This class has already impressed me. There are a lot of kids in this class and I am already very proud of them. I can’t wait to take them to D.C.
“A big thing that we do for D.C. is that we try to make them understand that even our founding fathers, when they signed the Declaration of Independence that in itself was a big deal. Those men gave up their lives, their fortunes, and their honor to fight a country and to form what we are today.
“We’ve made so many mistakes in the past and have fought so many wars, but we have grown as a nation today, because of the future these students bring to us. I think all of these students understand what these veterans have given us. We want to thank you guys, because if it wasn’t for you, our country wouldn’t be what it is today.”
However, Patrick wanted to thank a specific group for their unique sacrifice.
“When soldiers come home from war, they’re always welcomed with open arms. One time, we forgot that as a country and we never want to do that again. For the Vietnam veterans, I want to welcome you guys home and thank you from National Trail Local School Districts, something you didn’t get when you came home. Thank you.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH