There was a real sense of awe and reverence in the gymnasium at North Decatur High School Friday as the shool hosted its 9th annual Veteran’s Day program.

The students listened silently then stood and cheered after each one of the speakers finished, showing they were aware of the significance of their guests words.

“You students are lucky to see some real heroes today,” guidance counselor Max Neimeyer said to kick things off. “They are, howver, the last ones to tell you that. Their purpose in being here is to honor not themselves but those who didn’t make it home.”

William A. Smith was the first to take to the podium and shared a synopsis of his life.

“I was 16 years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed. My brother joined the military right away and I did as soon as I turned 18,” Smith said. “I went overseas a week before Christmas which was tough on a young man away from home for the first time.

“At 19, I was in my first battle and four days later I was hit by schrapnel.”

Smith walked the crowd through his entire life culmenating in a doctor’s visit he had not long ago when the final piece of schrapnel, he carried for all of those years, was finnally removed. He proudly held it up for all to see.

Next, a pair of unique guests grabbed the attention of the teenagers. Specialist Mary Hollin Redd (1987) and Staff Sgt. Michael Redd (1986) are a husband and wife team who both graduated from North and joined the Army.

“Mary and I have both been to Iraq and Kuwait,” Michael said. “I could go on for days talking about the Army and how good it’s been to me and my family.”

Michael did a split tour in the military. He went off for four years, returned to work in a local factory, and rejoined the service until being discharged a week ago. Mary. according to her husband, “Put her life on hold to raise our family for 13 years and they joined the Army. It was always her dream.”

She told a story about being home with family before going to Iraq.

“My son was always very polite and said yes sir and no mam,” she recalled. “One day I got a call from school and his teacher said he was acting up a bit. Knowing this was not like him, I asked why he was doing that. ‘I don’t want you to go to Iraq and get killed.’ he told me. That broke my heart. I told him I’m not going there to kill people but to save people. If I save one life, risking mine will be worth it.”

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