A heart-felt thank you was given to military veterans during Veterans’ Day celebrations at Ashe County High School and Ashe County Middle School.
According to Ashe County High School Principal Jason Krider, around 850 students attended the 7th annual Veterans’ Celebration to honor the 49 veterans from the community who attend the assembly on Thursday, Nov. 8.
After each veteran was recognized for his or her service by standing, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Mike Mincey spoke to the students on behalf of the veterans in attendance.
“What we’re really doing today is celebrating our freedoms, because the freedoms we enjoy come at a cost,” said Mincey.
Despite coming from a family whose members served in the military, Mincey said he was a “free spirit” when he was younger. “I wasn’t a very committed young man,” said Mincey.
For Mincey, that “free-spirited attitude” continued through to college, where he lost his college deferment. Afterward, he realized he would probably get drafted, so he opted to join the Marine Corps.
“Life was very different in the military. I had heard profanity before, but never strung together the way those drill sergeants did,” said Mincey jokingly.
“My life was changed forever after joining the Marines. I went from a skinny guy to a good-sized fellow, but more than that, I developed mental toughness and responsibility,” said Mincey.
“You learn to reach down deep inside yourself and do what it takes to get the job done,” said Mincey.
As much as Mincey felt he had accomplished during his time in the Marines, he told the crowd that he was not a hero. “The real heroes are the ones who sacrificed everything and didn’t make it back home,” said Mincey.
In a somber moment, Mincey read the names of six people he new personally who lost their lives during the Vietnam War.
“I would like to thank all of you,” said Mincey. “It’s a true honor for us as veterans to receive this type of recognition. There are a lot of high schools that wouldn’t do something like this.”
Several student groups took part in the Veterans’ Celebration, including the marching band, choir, and ROTC.
While the marching band and the student choir entertained the audience with music, the ROTC capped off the assembly with a 21 gun salute and the playing of Taps.
Also, veteran Jim Gee played bagpipes for the audience and the group “Three for Thee” sang during the event.
The branches of military represented included the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines and U.S. Air Force.
Ashe County Middle School welcomed 19 veterans representing four brances of the U.S. Armed Forces on Friday morning.
The veterans filed in to the auditorium as the ACMS concert band played Feldstein and O’Reilly’s “Cape Spear March.”
Following the presentation of colors by the ACHS ROTC, the national anthem, and the pledge of allegiance, principal Earl Pennington welcomed everyone in attendance and expressed his appreciation for the veterans, thanking them for answering the call of service and ensuring our nation’s freedom.
After Pennington’s welcome, seventh and eighth grade students kept the assembly in motion by giving a brief history of Veteran’s Day, reading essays on the topic of what they would say if they could speak to the founding fathers and introducing the veterans who were present.
Representing the U.S. Air Force was James Lawson. Also honored for his service in the U.S. Air Force was Justin Miller who could not attend because of active duty.
Many U.S. Army veterans were in attendance including Alvin Miller, Marvin Greer, John Day, Jeff Houck, Jerry Brooks, Virgil Elliott, David Osborne, Darrel Brooks, Tommy Mullis, Kermit Wilcox, Rodney Roush, Reggie Keys, Bill Carter and Cecil Walters. Jason Phipps of the U.S. Army was also honored but could not attend.
Buddy Greer and Bill Horner represented the U.S. Marines, as did Thelma Kastl in place of her husband, Scott Kastl.
The U.S. Navy was represented by Joe Price and Jim Gee, who also performed a bagpipe solo of “Auld Lang Syne.”
The ACHS and ACMS choirs sang Teresa Jennings’s “American Tears” and a medley called “Armed Forces” by Gilpin and Clark before the ROTC performed a 21-gun salute and “Taps” was played by ACMS trumpet players.