Military veterans strengthen their communities by applying the skills they sharpened on active duty, a high-ranking officer told the students and teachers of Lt. Job Lane School at a pre-Veterans Day assembly on Thursday morning.
U.S. Air Force Reserve Col. Michael McGinley, a Lane School parent, said service members learn to work together for the same goals, and “in this way veterans are role models for all of us. They offer an example of being selfless and to serve others.”
The program, back from a three-year pandemic hiatus, is presented as “a time when we come together to honor and show appreciation to the brave men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces,” Lane School Principal Rob Ackerman told the assembled students and staff. “The heroes we celebrate on Veterans Day are real-life heroes who have protected our country and our freedom.
“When the kids have a day off, we want them to know why they have a day off,” Ackerman explained before the program.
Some 600 third, fourth, and fifth graders filed into the Lane School gym by grade with recorded patriotic music in the background – everything from “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” to Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to Be an American.” Each student held a miniature U.S. flag and sat on the gym floor.
McGinley, the guest speaker, is the mobilization assistant to the commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, OH. He is awaiting promotion to brigadier general.
The speaker, in dress blues, began with a story from the Vietnam War. A helicopter pilot risked his life to rescue soldiers under fire and transported them to safety, where many received medical attention.
That mission is “one example of how military veterans work together in complex and challenging environments,” McGinley said. “And that’s what the day is all about.” Near the end of his remarks, McGinley revealed that the helicopter pilot was his father.
“You represent the future of our country and the promise and potential of what we can achieve,” McGinley said. “You are the very reason our veterans served.”
Members of the town’s public safety honor guard led the procession of dignitaries into the hall. More than 20 students had invited veterans they know – parents, grandparents, other family members, or friends – to join the event, and they escorted their guests and joined them in special seating behind the podium as Ackerman introduced them. One of the guests served in the army of India.
A delegation of fifth graders led the “Pledge of Allegiance,” and a choral group from Bedford High School sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and all three stanzas of “America the Beautiful.” During the songs, hundreds of kids brandished their miniature flags in rhythm.
Two fifth grade girls presented the well-known World War I poem “In Flanders Fields” by the Canadian John McCrae. Two members of the Lane music faculty, Nicole O’Toole (flute) and Natan Wythe (guitar), joined Superintendent of Schools Cliff Chuang (violin) for an instrumental rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” written in 1900 and known as the Black National Anthem. The little flags continued waving to the music.
During his talk, McGinley explained that each of the six branches of the armed forces has “a unique primary mission,” and their roles transcend fighting to cover everything from cyber security and anti-drug operations to humanitarian missions and space communications. There are about 2 million serving today, he said.
McGinley noted that there are 16 million veterans, and “that’s less than 5 percent of Americans.” He urged students to ask veterans they know about their service and its challenges.
“Get to know those people. And say these two magic words: ‘Thank you.’ You can’t imagine how much that means to them,” he said.
Veterans Day honors those who fought in all wars, said McGinley, displaying his grandfather’s World War II combat medals. “It’s their service that allows us to live freely today. We are grateful for their sacrifice and dedication.”