Students in Sherman and Denison recognized the efforts and contributions of those who served in the military Friday during a pair of events for Veterans Day. The annual holiday, held each year on Nov. 11, seeks to honor and recognize the sacrifices made by those who have served or are serving in the armed forces.
“This event is to teach our students about the sacrifices our veterans have made and to teach them to honor them,” Piner Middle School Counselor Cindy Parson said Friday. “This is good outreach for us to our area veterans and those in active service.”
The origin of Veterans Day dates back to the days following World War I and a desire to recognize the efforts of soldiers during what was described as “the war to end all wars.” This led to the creation of Armistice Day, which was held on the anniversary of the end of hostilities on Nov. 11, and its formal recognition as a legal holiday in the late 1930s.
The holiday was expanded in the mid-1950s when the holiday was renamed Veterans Day to recognize the efforts of all veterans following the conclusion of World War II.
Scott Middle School’s event in Denison Friday morning started with a breakfast the students served to area veterans. There were over 700 students in attendance, with close to 100 participating in the presentation in some capacity to honor the nearly 50 veterans who attended the event.
Grayson County Veteran’s Service Officer James Petty was the guest speaker.
“I am extremely humbled to stand before you this day,” Petty said. “I recognize any one of the veterans who have attended this event with me today are more than capable to stand and tell you what this means to veterans who served in our armed forces over the years. America’s soldiers serve with distinction in every corner of the world right now. We honor them all today, and on Veterans Day. I congratulate the school leaders here who put this event on each year.”
Petty said there are approximately 11,500 veterans living in Grayson County. He told the students about his own service in the Army. He said he has served all over the world and traveled to many places across the U.S.
This is the sixth year that Piner Middle School has celebrated Veterans Day with a program featuring the school orchestra, choir and local veterans speaking on their experiences and services. In total, about 40 veterans and family members attended the school’s ceremony, officials said.
Among the veterans who spoke during Friday’s event was retired Sherman Assistant Superintendent Fred Freeman, who served in the U.S. Army in the 1960s. Freeman drew comparisons to when he attended middle school, when he was discharged from the army in 1968, and the current class of students in 2018.
“We will see if their decade of the ’20s was as interesting as our decade of the 60s,” he said.
Freeman spoke briefly on his career in the military and his transition back into civilian life as a music instructor and educator. Regarding military service, Freeman said in reality there is more than simply fighting and many servicemen play key support roles during a conflict. In total, for every one combatant, there are close to five support personnel.
“Not all who go into the military meet the enemy face-to-face,” he said.
Scott Middle School Principal John Parker said he and his staff were hoping students will realize freedom isn’t free.
“We welcome the veterans to come see these kids to honor them,” Parker said. “We have added new things to it in the last two years. It’s special for us, it’s a day our kids look forward to.”
Parker said the school had over 730 students in the audience, plus an additional 90 or more involved in the presentations.
Current Sherman Police Officer Tom Caver, who serves as a student resource officer, also spoke regarding his decision to join the armed forces not once, but twice. Caver first served in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years in the mid-1990s before leaving to study criminal justice. During that time, Caver said he was stationed in California.
“That service made me the man I am today,” he said, adding that it taught him the discipline he carries to this day.
Following his time with the marine corps, Caver has worked for nearly 20 years as a police officer. However, about five years ago, Caver said he felt the desire to serve in the armed forces return. As he was growing older, Caver decided to re-enlist as a U.S. Air Force reservist, where he serves within security forces.
“I wanted to wear a military uniform one more time to see if I still cut it,” he said.
In his message to the students, Caver said it is more fulfilling to live a life of service than it is to have a life of riches.
“A good name is more desirable than great riches,” he said. “To be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”
Ricky Bradfield, a veteran who served in the Army and Marines and did two tours in Vietnam before becoming a chaplain, said the event in Denison was “great.”
“This was my fourth time,” Bradfield said. “It’s all good knowing people haven’t forgotten. They have done so much to make what we went through bearable and worthwhile. We’re not through — there’s a lot of us missing, dying today. We’ve got to keep remembering.”
The students were visibly moved during certain points during the event, and at one point in the video presentation, the students began waving their flags without prompting once images of the World Trade Center were shown.
Another highlight of the event was when two students presented what was called ‘The Missing Man Table” to demonstrate the lives lost in service to the country. Six chairs were placed around a round table donned with a white tablecloth. The seats represented the five branches of the military, as well as one empty chair for the civilians who lost their lives in the various conflicts.