RACINE — While many schools close for Veterans Day, Southern Local School District was in session and paused for a time Wednesday morning to honor local veterans.
Southern Superintendent Anthony Deem said he prefers school be open on Veterans Day.
“It’s a time I get to teach,” Deem said. “What would everyone be doing today if there was no school? Shopping, watching television, playing video games?”
Instead, Deem said that by having students participate in the ceremony, they become more connected to the day and have an opportunity to meet firsthand those who have served.
Deem is himself a veteran, and began the ceremony at Southern the school in 2006 as a way for the school to learn about the contributions of veterans and recognize veterans who still live in the area.
“It’s a history lesson,” he said. “And what better way to teach history than to be part of it.”
The ceremony began outside with the entire school population and area veterans in attendance.
Welcome was given by Southern High School principal Daniel Otto, with Racine American Legion and all veterans in attendance recognized.
After a solemn flag-raising ceremony by the Legion, Southern High School Band played the Star Spangled Banner and Student Council President Kalynn Seymour led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Scott Wolfe spoke about the definition of a veteran. He said veterans have defended United States citizens 365 days a year since the American Revolution, and that many have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“It is those veterans that make the US the greatest nation on earth,” he said.
He quoted Patton: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
Veteran and Southern Board member Denny Evans spoke and said that only 10 percent of Americans can claim the title of veteran, and that currently only 1 percent of the population is in the military defending the country.
“Veterans are responsible for our freedom and security,” he said. “They have made this the greatest nation on earth, and it is impossible to put a price on that.”
He went on to say that citizens must remember and appreciate veterans, and that there are those whom he called tattered citizens who need assistance.
“We can do better and we must do better,” he said.
The first grade class captured the attention of everyone in the crowd as they sang “American,” their voices clear, bold and purposeful.
The ceremony then moved inside as the band played “Anchors Away.”
Once inside, a video, “Ronald Regan A Soldier’s Pledge, Listen, Learn and Remember” was played. National Honor Society members each read quotes pertinent to Veterans Day.
As part of the ceremony, a veteran is selected to receive the Special Honoree recognition, also established in 2006.
This year the honor was bestowed by Deem to Thomas Diddle, who served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946.
Diddle served on numerous vessels during the war, was wounded and awarded the highest security clearance during his service in the Office of Strategic Services.
As the auditorium dimmed, the Roll Call, in memory of those from Meigs County who made the ultimate sacrifice, began with the lighting of 83 candles, one for each of the veterans who lost their life in service. As a Power Point presentation with names and specific wars fought by each person could be viewed by the audience, Deem and Baker read each name. As they did so, a bell tolled and a candle was extinguished.
The Roll Call ended as Taps sounded through the auditorium to conclude the ceremony.
As the students exited, they handed pictures they had made to the veterans. Later, veterans and family members enjoyed a reception hosted by the National Honor Society.
Contact Lorna Hart at 740-992-2155 Ext. 2551