GREENSBURG – North Decatur High School (NDHS) held its annual Veterans Day program Monday morning to honor the brave men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
The program began with the March of Heroes, where veterans entered the gymnasium while bagpipes were played by Jerry Carey. The Color Guard of the American Legion Post #129 and the Greensburg Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #5584 presented the colors before NDHS teacher and organizer of the program Ernest Ruble welcomed veterans, students and guests to the school.
Ruble recognized all the veterans in attendance and asked the students at NDHS who have already committed to joining a branch of the military after graduation to stand. There were six young men at the school who will be leaving for basic training shortly after they accept their diplomas. All were honored with thunderous applause by the audience.
Members of the NDHS Concert Band and North Decatur Singers performed several songs during the presentation. The ND Singers sang a memorable rendition of the National Anthem while the band provided music. A highlight of the program was the “Armed Forces Salute- the Pride of America” which included the official song for each branch of the military. Veterans were asked to stand and be recognized when their branch’s song was played. Both groups also performed an emotion-filled “Hymn of the Fallen.”
Shelbi Callahan read a short essay she wrote titled, “The Bravest Man I Know,” about her father, a military veteran. Callahan recalled always wanting another story about his days in the military when she was a child and finished with the request that the audience not clap for her, but for her father and all the veterans present.
Many poems and essays written by others were read by NDHS students during the Veterans Day program. “Armistice” by Sophie Jewett was read by Logan Hobbs, Emily Scott read the poem “We Owe Them a Lot” by Joanna Fuchs and Molly Trenkamp read “Reality in Afghanistan” by Phil Williams. Eric Moorman read the poem “With Praise for Aging Veterans” by Greg Asimakoupoulos and Ashleigh Kramer read the short poem, “Mya’s Wish” which detailed a young girl’s prayer to God to return her father, who had been recently killed in action while serving.
Alison Wallpe, president of the NDHS Honor Society, introduced the program’s guest speaker, Christopher Browning, former Lieutenant of the United States Marine Corps.
Browning is a combat veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns who grew up in a military family. He said he initially didn’t plan to join the military, but a high school scheduling mistake led to him being enrolled in a Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) class. The teacher of the class inspired Browning and he chose to stay enrolled, which is what he credits as the reason he became a Marine.
“My deployments taught me to appreciate what we have here,” Browning said, gesturing around him. “You think you know, but until you go to these oppressed countries and see the joy on the people’s faces when we arrive, you don’t know.”
Browning spoke about the fellow Marines who were killed or wounded in action, as well as those whose experiences led them to commit suicide after being discharged. Browning said the suicide rate among veterans has surpassed the suicide rate among the general population, a problem he seeks to rectify with his work at the IU School of Medicine. Browning is working with Michael Kubek, Ph.D. on an intranasal medication that may help lower the suicide rate among veterans by blocking suicidal thoughts. After his speech, Browning was presented a plaque by NDHS students Laura Haunert and Anna Wallpe to thank him for his service as well as for speaking at the program.
During a POW/MIA ceremony, empty chairs were covered with the POW/MIA flag and pink carnations were laid on the chairs to represent the veterans who were unable to be present because they gave their lives for country during war. The ceremony was followed by a moment of thought and silence to honor their sacrifice.
Brooke Coy explained the meaning of Taps, the emotional song played at many military funerals and memorials. The story she told was of a man in the Union Army who heard the pained moans of a wounded soldier. Unable to tell if the man was a Union or Confederate soldier, he dragged him back to safety, only to discover that the wounded soldier had died. The soldier was the man’s son, who had been studying music in the south when the war broke out and joined the Confederate Army without telling his father. Because his son was a Confederate soldier, he wasn’t allowed a full military burial by the Union and was only given a single musician to play during the funeral. Taps is the series of notes found in the young Confederate soldier’s pocket. It has since become a staple of military funerals across the country.
The Lone Tree Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #5584 and American Legion Post #129 made up the Honor Guard and Firing Squad and NDHS class of 2014 president Charlie Gay played Taps.
NDHS Principal Gary Cook thanked everyone for attending and extended a special thanks to all the veterans who have served America in the Armed Forces. The veterans in attendance received a standing ovation as every person in the gymnasium rose to their feet to applaud those who have served in the military to protect the freedom of the United States of America.
More photos from this event are available in an online gallery at www.greensburgdailynews.smugmug.com.
Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111 x7004