LCMS students honor veterans on Veterans Day

Published 12:36 pm Thursday, November 14, 2019

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STANFORD – Lincoln County Middle School was full of guests Monday representing four of the five armed forces – Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force – as students and faculty welcomed those who served with a special Veterans Day ceremony.

While interim principal Stacy Story and assistant principals Jason Bryant and David Ledford handled the flow of the visitors and their families and friends into the building and the assembly of students into the school gymnasium, it was the students who handled the program from the welcome to the national anthem to the thanking of each veteran by giving them “Thank You” letters.

Following a breakfast served in the school cafeteria, veterans took their seats of honor in front of the school’s students, staff and visitors in the gym and were treated to patriotic songs sung by Lindsay Bryant and played by the Lincoln County Middle School Band and Brock Parsons.

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Slate Adams officially opened the program by welcoming veterans and students and giving an overview of the day’s program. Hannah Sears and Emma Wagner then led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and Alayna Bodner sang the “Star Spangled Banner.”

After the national anthem, Courtney Siler introduced the first of the day’s two podium guests, members of the VFW Post #3634. The goal of the Post members was to teach the special significance of each fold whenever an honor guard folds a U.S. flag that once draped the casket at a military funeral.

Students watched and listened closely as the Post members demonstrated the folding of an American flag as the meaning of each fold was read. This is what the 13 folds mean:

* The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.

* The second fold signifies our belief in eternal life.

* The third fold is made in honor and tribute of the veteran departing our ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace.

* The fourth fold exemplifies our weaker nature as citizens trusting in God; it is to Him we turn for His divine guidance.

* The fifth fold is an acknowledgement to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong.”

* The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

* The seventh fold is a tribute to our armed forces, for it is through the armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all enemies.

* The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor our mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.

* The ninth fold is an honor to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty, and devotion that the character of men and women who have made this country great have been molded.

* The 10th fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since he or she was first-born.

* The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

* The 12th fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.

* The last fold, when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”

At the conclusion of the flag demonstration, LCMS students Annabelle Stephens and Toby Sallee gave a student reading on Veterans Day and the branches of service before the band broke into playing the marches of the armed forces.

Air Force veteran Tara Finnerty was introduced by Bae-Bae Smith as the day’s guest speaker. Finnerty, the daughter of a U.S. Marine, signed a contract with the Air Force when she was still in high school, following in the footsteps of her brother.

“He was my best friend and my role model. He taught me how to be strong and how to always try to be better,” said Finnerty. “The local Air Force recruiter talked to me when I was 15. When I was 17, she convinced me to join the delayed enlistment program. I signed a contract with the Air Force when I was 17 with both my parents’ permission.”

Finnerty said the opportunities presented after high school caused her to join, citing steady pay, a place to live, food, travel and educational benefits.

Her first duty station was Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma where she was trained in information management and information technology. Some of her more memorable moments at Altus included witnessing the space shuttle being carried on top of a 747 aircraft across the United States to Kennedy Space Center and getting to sit in the cockpit of a F-117 stealth fighter.

And then there was Sept. 11, 2001.

“I was in Oklahoma on Sept 11, 2001 when our nation came under attack,” she said. “I witnessed what was part of our great military go from a relatively peaceful nation to mobilizing to maximum security in an instant.”

Finnerty would eventually go to Osan American Air Force Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea

“I volunteered to go to Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, because I signed up for the military to see the world and to travel,” she said.

She eventually came back to Travis AFB in California before deciding to leave the Air Force to start a family.

“Throughout my seven years in the Air Force, I was always surrounded by leaders and mentors who only wanted to see me succeed,” said Finnerty. “They rewarded me with awards, medals, promotions at every opportunity that they could.”

Those leaders and mentors always pushed her to succeed so Finnerty wanted to share some life lessons with the students that she’s learned over the years. Her checklist included the following: to have integrity in all you do; do the right thing even when no one is looking; serve others before you serve yourself; stay humble and kind no matter how successful you are; have excellence in all that you do; you don’t need anyone’s permission to be a leader; have a strong work ethic and always work harder than you think you can; don’t dishonor our military and veterans by being lazy; use the tools and technology and opportunities that are available to you to maximize your potential; read as many books as you can; take risks because it is necessary for self-improvement; don’t worry about what other people say or think about you; and take a moment every day to reflect on all your blessings.

“Regardless of the problems we have as a country, this is still the greatest nation on earth. This is still the only country that has the most opportunities to offer its citizens,” Finnerty said. “At the end of the day, we’re all Americans. Black, white, male, female, Republican or Democrat – it doesn’t matter. We have over 1,000,000 active personnel sacrificing their lives and their freedoms every day so we can have these amazing opportunities. Remember, we live in the greatest nation in the world. Go out and be great. That is how you honor your veterans. God bless America and thank you for your time!”

Following the playing of “My Country Tis of Thee,” Jae Cox gave a reading before students passed out “Thank You” letters to the veterans.

The program closed with a reading by Kalyn Peek and Jim Stites followed by a moment of silence.