Honoring military service was, naturally, the top theme of the Veterans Day program Tuesday at Bryan County Middle and High schools. But a close second was pure emotion.
And it was the personal touches that drew some of the day’s strongest responses.
During the program, about a dozen middle- and high-school students spoke to the audience with tributes to veterans.
In South Bryan, McAllister Elementary held its own Veterans Day observance Tuesday.
Kearsten VanRyswyk a junior at BCHS, spoke to the audience about her father. VanRyswyk said it was always sad when he left for another tour of duty, but “he fights to make this a better world for us,” she said, adding that her dad is her hero as the crowd applauded.
Ninth-grader Makayla Douglas spoke about her grandfather, Richard David Williams Sr., who was a Marine. Douglas said Williams “always helped out with us” and described him as “one of a kind” and a “very unique person, very different from others.” Williams passed away Jan. 22, 2009, and the family was heartbroken, Douglas said.
“I love you, and you’re always in our hearts. Happy Veterans Day,” she said, again drawing a strong response from the audience.
Others read passages, such as “The American Hero” by Roger Robicheau, and personally written short essays.
Alexis Hovis, a seventh-grader, focused her speaking time on the “normal people,” the ones who weren’t famed soldiers like Ulysses S. Grant, Stonewall Jackson and George Washington. She especially pointed out the living soldiers and honoring their efforts.
“Maybe it would help if we just made them feel a little less forgotten,” she said.
Another stretch of strong emotion came during the video presentation “Honoring Our Veterans — A Photographic Tribute.” The slideshow featured photos of family members of the school’s faculty, staff and students, all set to songs such as Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.”
Many people were visibly moved to tears during the program, although hugs and support were plentiful for them.
The tribute also featured the eighth-grade and high-school concert band performing “America on Parade” and “American Heritage March” and the sixth- and seventh-grade combined chorus singing “My America.”
Many veterans in the audience were recognized as they stood while recordings of the songs of their military branches were played.
The mistress and master of ceremonies were BCHS Junior ROTC members Logan Scott and Brett Kohler. That group’s color guard made the presentation of colors.
Hundreds of parents and students paid a musical tribute to the nation’s veterans at a McAllister Elementary School ceremony Tuesday night.
Under the electronic images of area veterans, the kindergartners through fifth graders sang songs honoring the contributions of military people to the safety and security of the country. The school was decked out in dozens of flags from one end of the building to the other, and patriotic music permeated the halls. Songs ranged from “You’re a Grand Old Flag” to “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
The ceremony honored members of each branch of service with their individual service songs and asked the veterans to rise during their branch’s song. Audience members applauded the veterans. MES music teacher and program coordinator Lori Roberts said she was proud of how hard the students worked preparing for the night’s presentation.
“We’ve been practicing since September. They did a wonderful job,” Roberts said.
Bryan County News correspondent Steve Scholar contributed to this report.