(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
Special events honoring local veterans were conducted this morning at the Sikeston Field House and New Madrid County Central High School gym while Doyle Elementary in East Prairie hosted a program this afternoon. Kelly and Scott Central high schools' programs are next week.
"We feel like the students need to understand what we have today is directly due to what veterans have done in the past." said Col. Rick Sherman of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Eagle Battalion.
This year marked the 12th Veterans Day ceremony at New Madrid County Central High School, Sherman said. Each year the event is sponsored by the JROTC and National Honor Society.
"It's a joint program where we both have certain aspects that we plan," Sherman said. "We leave it up to the students to do the planning. We give them guidance, but they do they planning."
Each veteran was introduced and escorted to their seats during the New Madrid ceremony. Members of the high school band and choir performed while the JROTC posted and retired colors, and the National Honor Society had different readings. Guest speaker was Major Ed Gargas, division engineer with 35th Infantry Division.
Many veterans who attend the event each year are members of the New Madrid VFW, American Legion and Ladies Auxiliary, Sherman said, adding most of the veterans give kind words following the ceremony.
Local veterans in East Prairie were invited to listen to the kindergartners sing.
"It's really amazing to hear the little voices, and we have a section roped off for the veterans," said Mellisa Heath, principal at Doyle Elementary. "There are one or two (veterans) who speak on how important the day is to them and that we are still doing this for them.
She continued: "To the children who don't know about Veterans Day, the veterans talk about the sacrifices they've made, and it's really moving to watch."
In honor of Veterans Day, the school also participates in Missouri's patriotic fundraising program called The Power of 11 Cents.
"Everybody brings in 11 cents, and it's donated to U.S. veterans," Heath said. Although Charleston High School doesn't host a ceremony, Major Ross Robey said Charleston JROTC students will participate in several ceremonies in the area. For example, the Color Guard will participate at an East Prairie ceremony and also one at the Sikeston Depot this weekend.
The Scott County Central High School History Club and Student Council will host an assembly at 8:10 a.m. Monday in the old high school gym for veterans who live in or graduated from the Scott County Central School District.
Dee Cookson, history club sponsor and government teacher, said this year will be the first after several years of not having a Veterans Day event so informing local veterans of the event proved challenging, especially with the holiday falling in the middle of deer hunting season.
"If I had realized so many veterans who are deer hunters were going hunting, I'd probably have moved the event to a different date," Cookson said. "But I told them (local veterans), 'One of the things you fought for was your right to deer hunt so you go right ahead.'"
Like many other communities, some of Scott Central's alumni are currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
"We'll e-mail them a certificate because we have most of their e-mail addresses, and those who can't make it to the ceremony will be given a certificate," Cookson said.
Cookson said parents and grandparents of current students will also be honored as well as family members of school personnel. A reception will begin at 7:30 a.m. in the lobby of the new gym. Coffee, soda, bottled water, doughnuts and cookies will be served. Former State Rep. Peter Myers will bet the featured speaker.
The recognition of veterans will conclude with the annual Veterans Day assembly sponsored by Kelly High School Student Council at 9 a.m. Thursday in the high school gym. Richard Trout, Vietnam War veteran, will be the guest speaker. Veterans are invited to come to the high school library at 8:30 a.m. where coffee and doughnuts will be served.