Showing gratitude

Stephanie Vallez · Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Veterans of West Liberty had a busy weekend remembering their service to the nation. Several ceremonies took place to honor the men and women of the armed forces.

One of the main themes this year was pride, and another theme seemed to be the next generation of Americans, our children.

It began on Friday afternoon, Nov. 10, as veterans attended a special assembly at West Liberty Elementary School.

Students gathered in the bleachers as honored veterans seated themselves in chairs at the center of the gymnasium floor.

Mr. Ortega, second grade teacher, is also a veteran who recently retired from 21 years of service in the U.S. Navy.

He shared with the students the flags he flew over Afghanistan, now folded in display boxes and explained their significance.

The students also had the privilege of hearing from guest speaker Colonel Heidi Warrington, who served as an Army Nurse for 34 years in 41 countries and 5 wars.  

She declined the microphone after asking the kids in the back corner whether they could hear her. The kids indicated that her strong voice was reaching them.

“As an army officer we’re not used to needing technical equipment because quite frankly it usually doesn’t work,” Warrington said.

She went on to offer a thanks to all the veterans seated beside her.

“No matter who’s up here speaking, we are one team,” she said. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guard we all serve together. We are one team the supports our nation. So if we could get a round of…”

But the applause was already erupting and cutting her off.

Colonel Warrington spoke of the flag as a symbol of everything that “makes America special in the world.” She reminded everyone to make sure America stays special.

“You’re the next generation,” she said to the crowd of children, ”Do us proud, do us right and honor the flag. Children, I salute you.”

At the end of the speeches and ceremonial processions of flags students had an opportunity to meet the veterans and to shake hands with true American heroes.

Before hand classes were busy making cards, writing letters and drawing pictures to offer to the veterans as gifts and thanks for their service.

On Saturday morning, Nov. 11, the American Legion was buzzing with American heroes and the people who came out to support them.

Veterans in ceremonial dress prepared flags and rifles as the large crowd gathered in the small building.

After the opening prayer, Tom Wertzbaugher, retired U.S. Army, wanted to talk about pride.

“Pride in america, pride in serving my country, pride in trying to make the world a better place for my kids, grandkids, friends and family,” he said.

Wertzbaugher mentioned that the current population of The USA is over 325 million citizens.  Of those, there are 2,363,675 military personnel defending all those people.

“That’s less than on percent. I’m proud to have been in that one percent,” he said.

Wertzbaugher read some of the letters they had received from the kids at the Elementary school on Friday.

He read a letter from Lilliana. “Thank you for protecting our country, and protecting our school, and protecting our dogs, and protecting our houses,” she wrote.

Wertzbaugher also read from Chloe’s letter, which simply said “Veterans, you are a caring Comet forever, forever.”

“It is our duty as veterans and civilians alike to make sure that all kids understand the pride in serving our great nation and the high cost of freedom,” Wertzbaugher said.

The men and women of the armed forces gathered on N. Calhoun in front of the American Legion. Local police held back the neighborhood traffic for the salute to our heroes.

Ayden Mathias, who also starred as Horton this weekend in West Liberty High School’s production of the Seussical, showed even more of his talent as he trumpeted a slow and mournful Taps during the 21-Gun Salute.

Another Veteran’s Day has come and gone.

We will not honor them with these ceremonies again until next year, but the main themes of the speeches that were given this year served as reminders that we can honor our veterans daily by living out the ideals that our flag represents and enjoying the freedoms they fought to preserve.
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