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As Americans, we have set aside November 11, Veteran’s Day, to reflect, remember, and honor those who served in the United States Armed Forces. Today, there are nearly 25 million military veterans living among us. Swiss Memorial Elementary School (SMES) honored them by teaching younger generations about their sacrifices on our behalf. A Veteran’s Appreciation Program was held at SMES on Thursday, November 7. Program coordinators were Kimberly McBee, Clayta Cleek, Teresa Shrum, and Sandi Kilgore and many other faculty, staff, and students worked together to make the program a success.
SMES went all out for veterans with decorations throughout the school. Patriotic student artwork and essays covered the walls throughout the hallways. A slide show was displayed on the television in the foyer complete with 150 Grundy County veteran photos and data.
SMES Principal Kasey Woodlee welcomed the assembly and answered these questions for students: Who is a veteran; who do you know that is a veteran; and how can we thank veterans?
The purpose of the program was intended to thank and honor all those who have served honorably in the military, in wartime or peace.
Students, faculty and staff acknowledged that veteran contributions to our national security is appreciated and stressed the fact that ALL those who served, not only those who died, have sacrificed and done their duty.
David Van Horn, SMES teacher, was a recognized veteran and led the invocation. He served honorably in the Marine Corps from 1995-1999 and was a sergeant in the 3rd Battalion in the 7th Marines. His jobs included machine gunner, security forces, and close quarters battle. He was stationed in Georgia, California, and Okinawa.
SMES Physical Education teacher, Shannon Potts, was also recognized during the program. He was a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps 24th Expeditionary Unit during the Kosovo Campaign from 1998 until 2011. He received the Kosovo Campaign Medal, NATO Medal (Kosovo), National Defense Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Navy Unit Commendation Medal, and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Local veterans in attendance included James H. McBee, Eugene Trussell, Chris Grooms, Shannon Potts, Robert Andrews, Joe E. Turner, Robert Turner, Billy Caldwell, Devin Kilgore, Billy Guffey, Carl Hornbuckle, David Van Horn, and Ralph Creighton.
The veterans in attendance received a standing ovation and were treated to a moving performance of the National Anthem by Teresa Shrum, and SMES teacher Clayta Cleek was in charge of a reception following the program. Veterans were served deli sandwiches, chips, dip, fruits, and veggies from Trader’s Market of Palmer and a delicious sheet cake from The Cake Lady of Gruetli-Laager.
Sadly missed at this year’s program was Mr. Y.B. Ashby, a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corp 14th Air Force (aka) “The Flying Tigers.” Mr. Ashby served in China, Burma, and India as a photographer and Theater Operator Armed Forces Radio Station Manager. In 1975 he was awarded the 14th Air Force Medal at an A.F. Association convention in New Orleans, Louisiana. Anna Chenault, widow of General Claire Chenault, Commander of the 14th A.F. and Ambassador Chin from the Republic of China presented the medal.
Mr. Ashby had been a speaker at the SMES Veteran’s Day Program for two decades. A wreath and flag was placed in a chair in front of the entombment flag in memory of him. The faculty, staff, parents, and students sincerely appreciate Mr. Ashby’s help and support over the years. He was the founder of the Grundy County Veterans Historical Society and created a local “good news” paper titled The Grundy County Post to promote children and their accomplishments. He also created GCTV’s Class of the Month in which every school in Grundy County was highlighted. He was involved with many other endeavors and events which are too numerous to mention. Mr. Ashby made it his mission in life to uplift and recognize the positive aspects of Grundy County and its people, especially the children.
The Sequatchie Valley Honor Guard (SVHG) performed an outstanding ceremony during the last portion of the appreciation program. SVHG volunteers present included Gary Light, James Allison, Wendell Roberson, Al Reyes, Marlin Anthony, Bill Ford, Jack Summers, Dan Pegg, George Shrum, Joe Pryor, Roger Ridge, Ray Stephens, David McAllister, and Roy Dugger. Their motto is “REMEMBER, only two defining forces have given their life for you – JESUS for your sins and VETERANS for your freedom.”
The SVHG is a ceremonial unit, from the U.S. Military, and is composed of volunteers who are highly motivated and maintain exceptionally high standards of appearance and conduct and show aptitude for ceremonial duty.
The SVHG fired a twenty-one gun salute, played the Taps bugler, and demonstrated flag folding. The flag folding ceremony represents the same religious principles on which our country was originally founded. The portion of the flag-denoting honor is the canton of blue containing the stars representing the states our veterans served in uniform. The canton field of blue dresses from left to right and is inverted when draped as a pall on a casket of a veterans how has served our country in uniform.
In the Armed Forces of the United States, at the ceremony of retreat the flag is lowered, folded in a triangle fold and kept under watch throughout the night as a tribute to our nation’s honored dead. The next morning it is brought out and, at the ceremony of reveille, run aloft as a symbol of our belief in the resurrection of the body.
The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life. The second fold is a symbol of our belief in the eternal life. The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our ranks who gave a portion of life for the defense of our country to attain a peace throughout the world. The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war for His divine guidance.
The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.” The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic. The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.
The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty, and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded. The tenth fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.
The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Whenever the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.” After the flag is completely folded tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington and the sailors and marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy today.
The Honor Guard left all of those in attendance with this closing thought – “What is a Veteran? A Veteran whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserve is someone who at one point in their life wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America, for the amount of, up to, and including his life.”