Guardsmen and Richland students honor Veterans Day

Thursday, November 15, 2012
Sgt. Cody Jones, of the 1140th Engineer Battalion in Cape Girardeau, show students of Richland R-1 schools a Missouri National Guard Humvee during their recent Veterans Day ceremony.

ESSEX, Mo. -- Guardsmen, Veterans and Richland R-1 students recently gathered to reflect and honor service members during the schools' Veterans Day Ceremony.

"On Veteran's Day, we remember those who sacrificed at home and overseas," said Lt. Col. Ed Gargas, commander of the 1140th Engineer Battalion in Cape Girardeau. "It is not a celebration of victory, but rather, as a celebration of those who made victory possible."

Several local Veterans who had fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom were in attendance.

"When a Veteran signs up, they lay their life down for their friends," Frank Killian, superintendent of Richland R-1 schools, told the student body.

The administration, staff and students decked the hallways and sidewalks with flags and red, white and blue decorations to show their appreciation. A special lunch was prepared for the visiting Veterans.

Thousand of Missourian, both active and reserve components, have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, said Gargas. Right now, more the 400 Missouri National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are serving overseas.

Gargas asked the students to honor Veterans not just this one day a year but to take time each and every day to personally thank those who are serving or who have served.

"They are the best of us, the best of this nation," said Gargas. "Our nation is stronger because of them. Those Veterans go on to provide that strength to local communities."

During the ceremony, Gargas helped lead a moment of silence.

"Let us not forget all our service members currently serving overseas," said Gargas. "Let us remember those who, because they paid the ultimate sacrifice, cannot be with us today."

Students, faculty and Veterans were moved by the ceremony's sentiment.

"Many of the Veterans were wiping tears when a junior high student played taps," said Killian. "The best moment was the standing ovation by the entire student body when the Veterans exited the gymnasium."

Throughout the day, Veterans and students also had the opportunity to see an up-armored Humvee and ask Sgt. Cody Jones, of the 1140th Engineer Battalion, questions about the type of equipment Soldiers use overseas.

"We watch documentaries and video clips but when they actually get to see it, it makes it all so much more real," said Michael Glisson, history teacher for grades 9 -- 12, who was glad his students got to have a hands on experience in the Humvee. "They're amazed by the size, even just the heaviness of the doors."

For Jones, who graduated from Richland High School, the chance to share the type of equipment he uses and his experiences with the students was very rewarding.

"Everybody and every student thought it was cool and neat," said Jones. "They couldn't believe some of the technology and capabilities inside."

Jones, who has two daughters and one son attending the elementary school, was glad to see the students enjoy Veterans Day and he's looking forward to next year's event.

"I was able to fit my daughters first grade class into the Humvee and we read a book and then at MREs (meal-ready-to-eat)," said Jones.

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