By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
More than 60 veterans, ranging from the men and women who served during World War II to those who were part of the global war on terrorism, were honored by students, faculty and staff of Perdido School on Friday, November 9.
The veterans were the guests of honor for a program held in a gymnasium packed with students from kindergarten through eighth grade, many of them wearing red, white and blue headpieces and holding signs of thanks. Two state representatives — District 66’s Alan Baker and District 64’s Harry Shiver – were also among the guests who came to pay homage to the former and current warriors.
U.S. Air Force Major Jamie Barnes, a retired intelligence officer and current commander of the Air Force JROTC program at Baldwin County High School, delivered his keynote address immediately after the students had sung rousing versions of each U.S. military branch’s theme song.
“I don’t know if I can follow what these kids just did,” Barnes said when a lengthy round of applause for the students finally died down, adding that he had never heard the Air Force song sung with such gusto. “You guys did an amazing job.”
The USAF retiree told the assembly that there are three kinds of veterans.
“Being a veteran is like being a Southern Baptist preacher, it’s almost a calling to serve,” he said. “We have three kinds of veterans — our past veterans, all the way back to Gen. George Washington … our current veterans … and our future veterans.”
He then spoke directly to the youngsters.
“The reason and the way our country is going to stay great and free is the future veterans,” he said, waving his arm the length of the gym. “From one end to the other, we’re staring at the future of our country. I hope that each one of you remembers this ceremony. It’s you guys who are going to carry the torch.”
Prior to the major’s talk, several students played key roles in the program. Luke McIntyre delivered the invocation, and the colors were posted by AFJROTC cadets Aliyah Larson, Ashton Smith, Sarah Lockhart and Grace Garner.
Boy Scouts Pack 76 members Kaligan Larkin, Scotty Lamb, Cody Bradley, Balian Allen and Kale Kizer led the gathering in the Pledge of Allegiance; Josh Gordon sang the National Anthem; and the Perdido Middle School band played “America the Beautiful.”
Following the speech, a drill team consisting of Ashton Smith, Emily Gainey, Aliyah Larson and Natalie Presley performed a flag-folding ceremony, then Smith presented the folded banner to Edna White, wife of Korean War veteran and former Perdido student Bernard White. She was accompanied by her son, James White.
Nathan Garner read his Patriots Pen Essay Contest winner, which stressed honoring the flag and veterans, then Jacob Ziegler concluded the program by playing “Taps.”
During his address, Barnes had noted that an appearance before such a group of former military personnel was a humbling experience, especially since it was in Perdido.
“I’m in no way deserving to be here in this company today,” he said. “It is an honor; I am truly humbled to be here with you. Thinking back to when I was in high school, I can’t remember any of our Veterans Day ceremonies. The one I’ve never been able to forget is the Perdido School ceremony. The number of veterans who turned out is amazing. I’m surrounded by greatness.”