By Ernie Over, managing editor, county10.com
(Pavillion, Wyo.) – In a respectful and dignified ceremony, more than two dozen local veterans were saluted for their service, past and present, during an all-school assembly at the Wind River Middle-High School gymnasium Thursday afternoon.
Guest speaker was Staff Sgt. Aaron Benson, from the Wyoming Army National Guard who is based in Lander. Benson noted that it was eight years to the day that he had signed his oath of service, which ultimately resulted in a tour of duty in Afghanistan, where he was a part of the Wyoming Infantry Brigade. He served with several different units during his tour. Benson recited the military creed of Courage, Honor and Duty while telling the students that “Peace has a price.” He talked about the spirit of the American Soldier and recognized the veterans in attendance for their sacrifices. Addressing the student body directly he asked asked a question. Benson said, “What I see is that you are the future, you will continue to carry our freedoms forward. But, will you?”
Serving as the honor guard and escorts for the afternoon ceremony were the school’s two classes of FC BOCES Military Science students, who stood at attention, presented and retired the colors, and stood with the flags of the various branches of the military.
Military Chaplain Allen Lambert of Riverton opened the ceremony leading the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance; that was followed by the singing of the Star Spangled Banner by Hailey Spray.
History teacher Dan Bowcutt read President Obama’s Veterans Day Proclamation and a combined choir of all sixth grade students plus the 7th and 8th grade music students sang “You Are Our Heroes,” while holding, and then waving, flags of the United States of America. The choir was directed by Pam Schweigert.
Fremont County Sheriff’s Deputy Brett Johnson, who is the district’s School Resource Office and the WRHS Military Science instructor, then introduced all of the honored guests and veterans in attendance. Students who won a Veteran’s Day Poetry Contest read their poems with images they had selected flashing behind them on a screen.
The ceremony also included a special remembrance for Prisoners of War and those still Missing In Action, the POW/MIAs. Participating in the remembrance was Levi Jones, an Iraqi War Veteran/Special Forces and Korean War Veteran Don Ryan, a recipient of the Purple Heart and Silver Star. Wearing his bright red U.S. Marine Corps blazer, Ryan explained the meaning of a table set for one with an empty chair beside it. “There aare 48,000 still over there somewhere,” he said. “This table, set with a white table cloth, represents the finality, the frailty of our prisoners.” Jones then lighted a lone candle on the table. A moment of silence was observed, and then Taps was performed by 17-year-old Juan Buitrago, an exchange student from Cali, Columbia, who is a participant in the Military Science program.
Closing remarks were made and the colors were retired. The Veterans, their guests and speakers were then treated to a reception in the school’s Commons.