LHJH honors Veterans

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By Rachel Madison

More than two dozen veterans participated in Liberty Hill Junior High School’s annual Veterans Day program Monday, which included a social and ceremony for members of the armed forces.

The ceremony began with the posting of colors by Boy Scout Troop 196 of Liberty Hill, the pledge of allegiance led by members of the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) and the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by LHJH’s symphonic band.

Annette Coe, principal of LHJH, said the ceremony was held as a way to celebrate members of the military as well as their families for giving selfless service and sacrifice.

“It is appropriate that in this season of gratitude we stop to recognize veterans, military families and those who gave their lives in service to our great nation,” she said. “We’re in debt to these heroes for the freedoms we enjoy every single day. We are so glad you’re here with us today as we honor our service men and women.”

Michelle Cole, Texas history teacher at LHJH, spoke about the history of Veterans Day, while Lauren Fletcher, historian of the NJHS, addressed the veterans.

“America makes a lot of things, but the standout, strongest, most resilient, honorable, dedicated, committed, true American product that’s had a significant effect on each and every one of our lives, that exists to protect you, me and the American way of life, is the American veteran. And today is your day,” Fletcher said.

The “Armed Forces on Parade” was played, and theater arts student Scarlet Smith performed a reading of “A Soldier’s Poem.”

The keynote speaker at the event was Major Jeremiah O’Fihelly, who retired from the US Army at Fort Hood in 1986 after 21 years of service. O’Fihelly also served as a substitute teacher in the Leander and Liberty Hill school districts from 2009 to 2014, and from 2014 to 2017 he worked at LHJH as an education aide in ISS.

O’Fihelly told stories from his own years in the military, as well as stories about his father-in-law and two sons, who also served in the armed forces. He said his ultimate message, though, was to not glorify war.

“We do not glorify war,” he said. “You hear a lot in school about bullying, and how it escalates and escalates. That might have something to do with why we have war. Anybody who has been under fire and tells you they aren’t scared is lying or they just don’t get it. My message is don’t bully, don’t fight, and appreciate freedom and liberty because they are not free.”

Following O’Fihelly’s message, the LHJH treble choir sang “Let Freedom Ring,” and members of the NJHS performed a reading for the missing man table, which honors prisoners of war and those missing in action.

NJHS Treasurer Abigail Billingsley read about each of the items on the table, including the single rose, which is to remind people of the loved ones and families who keep the faith and await their soldiers’ return, and slices of lemon, which remind people of the soldiers’ bitter fate if they aren’t brought home.

“As we look upon this empty table, do not remember ghosts from the past … remember those who we depended on and who depend on us to bring them home,” Billingsley read. “Remember our friends. They’re the ones we love who love life and freedom as we do.”

Theresa Porter of the US Army then spoke about the meaning of “Taps,” which was played by LHJH Band Director Jared Clarkson, following a moment of silence.

The Veterans Day event at LHJH has been put on for over a decade, said Coe.

“This event is very special to our hearts,” she said. “We’ve done it for the last 11 years, since I’ve been here. We send a notice out the kids to have them invite relatives, friends and neighbors who are veterans, and we try to get as many as we can to come out so we can honor them. The kids put it on and they did a great job this year.”

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