by Peter Jakey-Managing Editor
Onaway Area Community Schools showed its patriotism Tuesday during the annual Veterans Day assembly in the high school gymnasium. For 90 minutes, students gave thanks to veterans with a parade through the halls; poems and speeches; and patriotic music from the high school band.
“It is a day set aside for you,” math teacher Amber Watson told the students. “It’s time for you to take some time and pray for someone serving right now, who are not getting time off, who did not get to sleep in their own beds.
“They don’t get to veg out in front of the television or even hang out with friends at the volleyball game tonight. They are risking their lives right now, so you can do these things. Take this time to pray for them and for their families, who miss them dearly.”
Watson encouraged the students to personally thank vets for their service. “To remember the men and women who risked their lives to protect ours. Remember, they did not have to, they chose to.”
Presque Isle County Probate Judge Donald McLennan was a guest speaker and commented on the tragedy that occurred this week in Nigeria where 50 students were killed.
“Here we are safe,” said McLennan. “We are not worrying about a bomb going off here. We know we are going to have food when we go home after school. We know we are going to have a bed to sleep in tonight. We know we will be able to watch television or read a book…maybe we want work a little bit. On Saturday or Sunday, we can go to whatever church we want to, or not go.”
McLennan continued, “And you know what? Nobody is going to whip us for it, and nobody is going to cut off our heads for it. Because we have peace and we have freedom, even though it is not like this everywhere in the world.”
He asked “Why? What is the difference? How is it that we have all of this?”
From the podium, he said, “Here is your answer,” pointing to the veterans sitting in front of him in folding chairs. “It could be otherwise here, but for the sacrifices of our veterans, it no doubt would be otherwise.”
“McLennan said it is fitting that Americans look back “And see what we have and maybe we will also see what we need in the future in order to keep it.”
He said veterans all the way back in the Revolutionary War sacrificed and “won freedom. It was not just for themselves…they won it for all of us.”
McLennan quoted Gen. George Washington: “We are fighting for the fate of the unborn millions.”
“On Veterans Day, we might want to think of them first, but for the next two centuries after that, we needed new heroes to step up and defend George Washington’s promise. To preserve that freedom.”
McLennan led the assembly in a cheer for the heroes.
“Hip, hip,” he led those gathered.
“Hooray,” those in attendance responded. McLennan repeated it three times with each one getting louder than the last.
As part of the ceremony, Jamal Porter performed an original song; the eighth-graders read Veterans Day poems and the Gettysburg address, while the sixth-graders recited the war poem, “In Flanders Fields.”
The band played the armed forces salute, as a large flag was unfurled over the east side bleachers.
Brianna Fitzpatrick also presented a Veterans Day video tribute.
The ceremony concluded with a flawless performance of “Taps” by Vydailya Letts.