by Geoff Fox
Monday morning, at 11 a.m., as they have for over 20 years, students at Hancock Middle-Senior High School came together to honor those who served in the United States armed forces during their annual Veterans Day ceremony.
As students and about 20 community members made their way into the school’s auditorium, pictures of family members who served in the military and recent graduates of Hancock High School currently serving in the military were projected on to a wall.
Principal Chris Cline welcomed everyone to the ceremony and talked about Veterans Day and the call for Americans to be soldiers and everything veterans have done.
“There’s no denying that the contributions of our nation’s veterans have played a big part in making the United States of America the great country it is today,” Cline said.
Cline also talked about the history of Veterans Day from when President Woodrow Wilson declared the day as a day to remember the veterans of World War I and how it has changed to honoring soldiers from all wars and those who served during peace.
Megan Rogers, President of the Student Government Association, gave a welcome from the students followed by Kayla Smith, President of the Senior Class, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
While everyone still standing, the Hancock Panthers Band played the “Star Spangled Banner” with a moment of silence and 11 chimes.
Lead Teacher Jennifer Malcolm followed and explained the ceremony and read letters from recent graduates from Hancock High School describing their life in the military.
“Although we are a small school, each year several of our graduates join the military,” she said. “In fact, many of their photos are included in today’s slide show.”
The Hancock Panthers Band then honored veterans by playing the march from each branch of the military. As each march was played, veterans from that branch stood to be recognized and met with a round of applause.
Except for the Coast Guard, each branch – Marines, Army, Air Force, and Navy – was represented.
The keynote speaker was Chief Petty Officer Russell Walzer of the United States
Walzer served 22 years in the Navy, retiring in 2010.
As he spoke, students sat in complete silence.
“I did not join the military because of a family tradition or because my father wanted me to,” he said. “I served honorably and faithfully in the Navy and it was served out of my own free will.”
He said he joined because of the veterans who served before him in both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam.
Walzer also went over his jobs in the Navy, places he served, and a few highlights of where he has served.
The War on Terrorism, he said, has helped Americans realize how truly unique our way of life is and how it must be defended.
“Now is not only the time to honor those who have fought for or fighting for our freedom, it’s time for each of use to take part in protecting it,” he said.
The defense of freedom doesn’t just fall on the military, but people can defend our freedoms by speaking out against injustices, ensure everyone feels the benefits of freedom, and teaching children what it means to be an American.
“Veterans Day isn’t jut a day for veterans, it’s a day for all Americans,” Walzer said. “It’s a day to remember why they were fighting and a day for all of us to begin our journey of protecting our freedom and the freedom of future generations.”
The Hancock Panther Band and Color Guard then performed. The Color Guard performed for the first time with twirling and tossing flags with stars and stripes.
As the Color Guard performed, the band played “America the Beautiful” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Science teacher Carl Wise was the final speaker.
“I’ve always been proud and humbled that we can do this and it’s always a nice presentation for everyone,” he said about the ceremony. He said he had attended 25 or 26 of the ceremonies.
In prepping to present a poem to the students, Wise said he found his great-uncle had died in a trench during WWI in France while fighting for the British.
Wise said his great-uncle’s sister, his grandmother, came over to the United States in the early 1900s. The great-uncle stayed in Wales, ending up serving in WWI.
Once he finds out more about his great-uncle, Wise said he might share the story next year.
Wise read a poem, relating to WWI, written by Michael Miller last year entitled “The National Debt.”