NEW PARIS — The class of 2020 at National Trail Middle School hosted the school’s annual veterans ceremony in the high school gymnasium on Friday, Nov.6, to honor local veterans as Veterans’ Day is celebrated around the nation on Wednesday, Nov. 11.
The gym was full of students and local veterans as the eighth grade class of National Trail welcomed visitors to the annual ceremony.
“We are here to celebrate Veterans’ Day, but what is Veterans’ Day?” McKenna Jones, the class of 2020 Jr. Honor Society President asked the crowd before explaining. “It is so much more than a federal holiday, the historical significance of the day is immeasurable and the day celebrates the veterans of all American wars and is a day of remembrance. Words cannot express the debt of gratitude we owe these brave men and women.”
The event features traditional military ceremonies according to class advisor James Patrick, who explained the ceremony’s significance to the eighth grade class. “The eighth graders really don’t interact and see veterans that much, so with them going to D.C. we want try to instill in them that nothing is free so when they get there this spring they understand what our forefathers did and the sacrifices they made,” Patrick said. “So it is a better understanding for them when they get to D.C.”
Superintendent Jeff Parker told those in attendance, “I firmly believe the time we spend with this ceremony each year honoring our veterans is as important as anything we do here at the National Trail Local School Districts.”
The ceremony started with Sgt. Del Braund of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department playing “You’re a Grand Ole Flag” on bagpipes.
The Preble County Color Guard presented the nation’s colors before the entire crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The National Trail High School band then played the national anthem.
The ceremony moved to a traditional flag folding ceremony presented by Kelsey Patrum, Jr. Honor Society Treasurer. Patrum read through the significance and meaning of each fold as students folded the flag in front of dozens of veterans.
Each fold of the flag holds a special meaning, she explained, with the first fold representing life, the third is in honor of those departing the ranks, the sixth, an allegiance to the flag, and on until all 12 folds are made.
The National Trail fourth graders then took the stage and sang “Blue and Red and White” and “Grateful To Be an American.”
The ceremony also featured “The Ceremony of Candles” by Davlyn Werner, Jr. Honor Society Secretary. The ceremony features the reading of the number of casualties of each one of the 12 wars America has fought in, from the Revolutionary War to the conflict in Iraq.
Each candle is extinguished after the number of casualties is read aloud, leaving the largest, middle candle burning, representing those who are Prisoners of War or Missing in Action and who never returned home.
After a wreath presentation, the Preble County Color Guard executed a 21-gun salute before Sgt. Braund returned for the playing of “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes.
Commander of the Preble County Color Guard Phil Hurst then spoke to those in attendance honoring prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action.
“Webster defines sacrifice as the giving up of something for the great value of another thing — that other thing is freedom — let me remind you that freedom is not free, the cost of freedom can be found in Flanders Field, at Arlington National Cemetery and written on the Vietnam Wall. All gave some, some gave all,” Hurst said to open his speech.
Hurst then explained a small table set for one at the front of the gym: “We honor and remember them with this table, the table is set for one, and it’s small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his captors. The tablecloth is white; it symbolizes the purity of his intentions to respond to his country’s call to arms. The single red rose displayed reminds of us of the family and loved ones of our comrade in arms who keep their faith awaiting his return. The red ribbon is reminiscent of the red ribbons worn upon the breast of thousands who bear witness to the unyielding determination to demand the proper accounting of those missing. The lit candle symbolizes the upward reach of his incomparable spirit. A lemon is on the bread plate to remind of us his bitter fate. There is salt on the bread plate symbolic of the families’ tears as they wait. The drinking glass is inverted, he cannot celebrate this day with us, and the chair is empty because he is not here.”
The high school choir and steel band performed two songs before members of each branch of service were called upon to stand and be honored by the crowd.
Afterward, local veteran Barry Trump, who served during the Vietnam War from 1965-68 said he comes to the ceremony every year, not for himself but those who are unable to be recognized on this day.
“I think it’s the idea of the people I know, a lot of them who never made it back,” Trump said. “It’s in honor of those who didn’t come back. I don’t come for me, I come for them.”
Reach Austin Schmidt at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @aschmidt_RH.