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Recently, I had the honor and privilege of participating in a Veterans Day Celebration at Valwood School.
Several weeks before, I received in the mail a handwritten letter from a Valwood eighth-grader, Libby Carroll. In the letter, Libby explained that her school would be hosting a celebration honoring America’s veterans and that she hoped I would be able to attend.
My first thought was, “How could I say no to such a nice overture?” My second thought was, “Hmmm, I’ll be coming off the night shift in the ER that morning and would be a little long in the tooth from sleep deprivation.” But, then again, that’s what being a veteran is all about, when duty calls, you respond. So, I went. And I’m truly thankful I did.
As this was my first time attending the annual event, I didn’t know what to expect. As it turned out, I was more than pleasantly surprised. When I arrived, I noticed a long line of elementary-age students lining both sides of a long sidewalk from the parking lot to the entrance of the auditorium. They were waving small U.S. flags and saying, “Thank you for your service!” to the veterans as they passed by. I was inspired by the children’s enthusiasm and their fledgling display of patriotism … and by this simple gesture, my faith in America’s future was restored.
Inside, the auditorium was packed as veterans from every branch of service filled the room. I was genuinely surprised at the turnout. There were students, faculty and staff members everywhere and every veteran, as he or she entered the foyer, was greeted with a smile, a handshake and a “Thank you for your service.”
Individual students were assigned to each table to visit with the veterans and to bring them refreshments. Friendly and engaging, these students were very attentive to the veterans. It was a very nice touch, indeed.
Festivities began with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner. Next, veterans from each service were honored with the playing of the various service songs, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. The stage was filled with middle-school-age children who then sang songs from different wartime eras and offered narratives describing America’s many struggles for freedom, the endless sacrifice of America’s veterans and the essence of American patriotism.
I’ve served in the Army National Guard for more than 27 years. I’ve been deployed numerous times to include combat rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve been to Eastern Europe on training missions and Central America on humanitarian service missions.
I’ve attended many veteran celebrations and have been honored many times throughout my years of service; however, I can say, unequivocally, that I have never felt more appreciated as a veteran than during this year’s Valwood School Veterans Day Celebration.
I commend the administration, faculty, staff, students and parent volunteers at Valwood for conducting a well-planned, well-organized and well-executed Veterans Day event. Further, I commend you all for the invaluable lessons of duty, honor and sacrifice you are teaching your students who will be the future leaders of our great nation.
Spencer Price is a colonel, medical corps officer, flight surgeon and 27-year veteran of the Army National Guard. He lives with his family in Valdosta.