Custer schools honor local veterans

Charity Wessel

Custer’s elementary, junior and senior high schools presented their 28th annual Veterans Day program last Thursday with a very special purpose at heart — to give a thank you to those who have served our country in military service.
The event took place Nov. 10 at the Armory, which was packed with patrons anticipating the coming production.
The audience stood for the American Legion Post No. 46’s Presentation of Colors, National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance.
With the assistance of Jody Tennyson and Hannah Rehmeier, the program included an array of patriotic singing performances and the Custer High School band played marches, Taps and “The Stars and Stripes” in honor of the freedom our countries’ heroes have given us.
In the opening address, Emily Borkowski, CHS student body secretary, said the program was dedicated to honoring the service of all the branches of the U.S. Military. This day is “to recognize and remember our veterans,” she said.
“Each year we as Americans pause to express our respect and gratitude for the millions of men and women who’ve served our nation as members in the U.S. Armed Forces. We owe a great debt to our military veterans who’ve shown us the value of liberty in our free, democratic government. Today, let’s renew our dedication to those who faithfully served and defended us,” Borkowski said.
The school’s program also included the Empty Chair ceremony that supports those “who gave their all to give us the freedoms we enjoy. We are reminded of those whose fate is still unknown,” said CHS’ Ella Allen.
There are those who are “still listed as missing in action or prisoners of war, and to honor these men and women, we take time to recognize the POW and MIA chair ceremony and their sacrifice to ensure our freedom in the United States of America,” Allen said.
The empty chair was set at a small table near the podium as a symbol “that there are members of the armed forces who are missing. The tablecloth is white to correspond to the purity of their intentions to respond promptly. The table’s glass is inverted because they can’t toast this day. The candle is reminiscent of the light that lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home. The flag reminds us that many may never return and have paid the supreme sacrifice to ensure our freedom,” said CHS’ Mical Grace.
Further showing the true purpose behind the program, CHS also presented a video production of deceased veterans, and there was also a moment of recognition for the audience’s veterans, highlighting the veterans right here in our Custer community.
CHS’ Landon Woodward introduced decorated Maj. Gen. Kathryn Johnson to the stage. Johnson honored the veterans in the crowd who’ve served and said Veterans Day is a day to “honor all our veterans — the ones who didn’t run away from disaster or fear, the ones who ran toward it to see if they could help,” she said.
Johnson said, “These veterans in the audience here today guide us, protect us and love us. They were the ones who would run to face trouble and go when they were asked.”
Johnson noted how military service also “includes humanitarian relief, building roads, electrical grids, disaster relief and border patrol. The military are on scene after a flood, earthquake or hurricane. They bring in food, water, supplies, clothes and blankets to help during a natural disaster,” she said.
“This is a large group of veterans here today and you can thank them for serving our community. And you can also be part of the solution,” Johnson said.
 Turning her talk to just the students, she reminded them that there are “so many career fields with training and schooling” in the military. The armed forces is where a student can “learn to push through adversity and defend our nation and our people.”
“It’s a great life of reward. We’ll always need people who are willing. People just like you. We need you and we’ve been waiting for you,” Johnson said.
She concluded in saying that these veterans have marked “a path for the next generation, and that next generation is you.”

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