"On Veterans Day, we remember those who sacrificed at home and overseas," 1st Sgt. Woody Rooker, of the 1140th Forward Support Company in Cape Girardeau, told the assembly of students. "It's a day we keep in our minds and hearts the brave men and women of this nation -- generations of them -- who above all else believed in and fought for a set of ideals."
Rooker, who is a Delta native, said Veterans Day is a personal time for him to remember his fellow Soldiers he's served with in overseas and at home, including a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004 -- 2005.
"I am reminded of those that did not come home on their own, sometimes daily," said Rooker. "I see their faces, hear their laughter and the shared talks we had. I remember handshakes and when they'd go outside the wire we're not macho men and we'd give support and hugs, 'I got your back' hugs. These Veterans I can only remember in my mind and heart."
Rooker was joined by Spc. Rebecca Cook, a teacher and coach at the school as well as a member of the 1140th, and answered students' questions about their service with the Missouri National Guard.
Students asked about the humanitarian projects in Central America, rank structure and basic training.
"The hardest part of my basic training was the gas chamber," said Cook. "You had to be in there for two minutes. You felt like your insides are burning, your outsides are burning. It was the worst feeling I've ever had."
Cook, who will attend officer candidate school next year, said she was proud to serve and there are many good things the Guard has done for he and communities across the nation and world.
Deployments to Central America, where Rooker spent time building roads, schools and clinics.
"They have nothing," said Rooker. "When we went to Panama for a summer, word got back to us in the States that they didn't have paper and pencils. We took the initiative and filled foot-lockers full of supplies to bring down with each new rotation."
Jim Gloth, principle of Delta High School, said it's good to have local Soldiers talk to the students.
"I think our kids really enjoy having someone from our community talk about serving," said Gloth. "Having someone from their community, it really hits home with them."
Rooker asked the students to thank the unsung heroes of their communities, including any family members who have served.
"You have a golden opportunity if they're still here to learn from them," said Rooker. "We owe a great debt of gratitude and honor, and can tell them so, give them a call, a hug, and just say thank you."
Throughout the year, Rooker said he often comes across Veterans wearing caps that symbolize their war and service affiliation and will take the time to shake their hand and thank them. He encouraged the students to do the same and thank Veterans not just on this special day but any time.
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