Salute to veterans

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

At times during Henry County High Schools Veterans Day Ceremony Friday morning, it was solemnly silent.

The ceremony began with an unusual sound in the large gym - that of bagpipes as the school's JROTC cadets filed in.

Larry Jeffries, who served in the U.S. Army from 1956 to 1959, was attending his third ceremony.

"I can't get over how quiet they are," Jeffries said of the students watching the ceremony from the bleachers.

The ceremony, he said, helps to heal hurt feelings for "all the ones who are not here."

Jeffries, who lost three friends to the Vietnam War, said he feels privileged just to be able to attend.

"I just gave three years of my life, they gave their lives," he said.

Jeffries was one of several dozen veterans who watched the ceremony from the gymnasium's floor.

Lt. Col. Mark Fassio said the event was designed to "honor those veterans who are still living," in addition to honoring those soldiers who has passed, and those who are missing in action.

Fassio said Veterans Day holds special significance "because of the events since (September 11, 2001)."

"Sometimes, we overlook the sacrifices of those who come before us," he said.

Veterans Day, he said, serves as a time to honor "those who served for two years, or for a career." Thanks to blockbuster movies in the last decade, Fassio said a new generation was "gaining a new appreciation" for the nation's veterans.

Fassio said veterans, particularly of World War II, are important. "Because of them ... we will remain free" he said.

During the ceremony, members of the JROTC performed short skits based on letters or poems. One honored soldiers listed as missing in action, while another honored those killed in action. A third portion of the ceremony honored those servicemen and women listed as prisoners of war.

Though several groups joined efforts to put on the ceremony, including the JROTC, school administration and student council, both Fassio and HCHS Principal Graham Weid said the event was about those veterans seated in the audience.

"Veterans, remember, this assembly today is for you and about you," Fassio said.

Weid echoed Fassio's comments.

"While our students were players in this program, its about you," he said. "It's not about us."

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