“Some gave all.” This was one of the many reminders that echoed through the White Plains Christian School gym yesterday when the students led a program to honor veterans.
The Veterans Day service, an annual event at the school, began at 8:30 a.m. Students, parents, teachers and local veterans were on hand to remember and honor those who have served in the United States military.
“I’ve been to a lot of different events honoring veterans, and this is one of the most impressive ones I’ve ever been to,” said U.S. Air Force veteran David Hatcher during a speech he gave at the ceremony.
The event began with prayer, then Christina Hawks read a poem titled “Mommy, What is a Veteran?” The poem ended with the line, “A veteran is a person to whom we owe every breath we take.” The group next pledged allegiance to the American flag, the Christian flag, and the Bible. “The Star Spangled Banner” then echoed through the gym as more than 100 people sang in unison.
During the service, students in each grade sang or recited patriotic pieces they had memorized. The kindergartners through second graders sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” Third and fourth graders recited a poem titled “Our Flag.” The fifth and sixth graders recited the American’s Creed, the Preamble to the Constitution, the First Amendment and the Rights of Americans. The poem “Freedom is not Free” was recited by the seventh and eighth graders.
Other patriotic tunes were sung throughout the event, and the students gave certificates and pins to the veterans present, the families of deceased veterans and the families of active military members.
Three veterans spoke to the crowd about their experiences in the military. Harvey Atkins spoke first about serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. He briefly recounted some of his experiences fighting overseas.
Calvin Barneycastle spoke next. He said, “To me this is not a sad day, this is a proud day.”
Barneycastle was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam era and was stationed in countries in the Soviet Union. He recalled his mother crying out, “They’re taking my baby,” when she got the news. He had the crowd laughing as he talked about Army haircuts, boot camp, and not wanting his mother to call him her “baby” in front of his girlfriend. The speech turned serious, though, when he recalled leaving the New York Harbor to go overseas. Their leaders told them to take a good look at the Statue of Liberty, because many of them may never see it again.
Of his time in the military, Barneycastle said, “They’ll teach you some things in there. You learn to respect people.”
David Hatcher, who was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, was the last veteran to speak. He spoke of his experiences serving as an Air Force pilot from 1954 to 1974. Hatcher told funny stories about boot camp, but then he talked about lasting more than six years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Many members of the crowd got teary-eyed as Hatcher described some of the interrogation and torture he underwent and how he renewed his relationship with Christ while in solitary confinement.
Hatcher got choked up as he repeated to the crowd what he first heard when he was finally able to come back home to his wife and children: “Here comes Daddy!”
A flag corps presentation, moment of silence and closing song finished out the program. Members of the crowd were each given small American flags to wave during the last song.
Robin Horton, eighth-grade teacher at the school, said, “I think (the program) is important because of the men who were here today. We need to show our young people that our country meant something to them.”
Kim Norman, high school teacher at White Plains, echoed these sentiments. She said, “We want them to love their country.”
The veterans and their families then remained at the gym to view Veterans Day displays and eat a meal together.
Contact Meghann Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.