With veterans and their families seated on chairs on the high school gymnasium floor, Mineola School District students said thank you to veterans in many different ways.
Students of all ages demonstrated knowledge they had gained as they related history of the country’s war, veterans and specifically Mineola’s veterans. The talent in the district was also on display as children sang songs that ranged from the first graders’ “American Tears” to a soulful rendition by fourth graders of “America The Beautiful” to Lena Hughes playing “Taps.”
Since Mineola High School’s first graduating class in 1883 Mineola students and alumni have fought in all wars and conflict in which the United States has been involved. It was announced that the school’s dedication and patriotism continue as three students – Russell Ballew, Travis Reimers and Ella Reinertsen – have committed to serving in the U.S. Army upon graduation.
During the program, winners of the Mineola Pilot Club Patriotic Essay Contest read their entries.
“Veterans make sacrifices for us,” Sophia Hogue, a Mineola fourth grader, said as she read her winning essay. “They leave for many years. When they come back, they might have changed. They see innocent people die by a bomb or something else. They do it for the love of America.” So, she urged those present to appreciate veterans when they see them.
Senior Dillon West was the high school winner. “You are appreciated,” West began reading. “They give up so much while we give up so little… so when I bow my head and give a moment of silence or when I stand for the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America I stand with pride that I live in the best place on earth. While our service men and women will always receive every ounce of gratefulness and respect within me for fighting for our freedom, I will forever be indebted to the great men and women who have sacrificed so much.”
The guest speaker was introduced by Cameron Sorenson. He said that Rev. Raymond Williams’ studies included California State Hayward, Bay City Bible Institute in Oakland and University of California at Berkley. He joined the Naval Reserves on Nov. 22, 1963, serving two tours of duty in Vietnam before being honorably discharged in 1969. He has been in the ministry for 40 years and is pastor at Walnut Grove CME Church in Mount Enterprise.
As he began, Williams asked all veterans present to stand as they were applauded.
Williams told the students that even though he wasn’t a recruiter for any branch of the military, he believed any student who has graduated from high school and who isn’t planning to attend college or a trade school to learn a job “that will get them a wage the will get them out of momma and daddy’s house…” should consider joining the military.
“If they have no direction or structure or no positive or forward outlook, service in the military can put them on the right path to being a productive member of society,” he said. “I knew that the path I was on was not going to lead me to where I wanted to go. I heard people say before `Join the service. That’ll make a man out of you.’ Now they should say, join the service. They will prepare you for the rest of your life. There has to be in life some opus, there has to be in life some desire to do better, to be better, or you’re just wallowing in life.”
Williams said as he listened to the speakers before him talk about the great sacrifice that veterans made, he didn’t believe that anyone who serves would say they were making a sacrifice. He believes they do so because of “a sense of duty, responsibility and because they love the nation. Because none of us join to make a sacrifice. A young man, a Navy Seal, one of four that were killed -if you had asked him that morning when he got up `Did you intend to sacrifice your life for your nation today,’ he would have told you no man. But he was willing to. That’s the choice we make in life.”
As he concluded Williams said that rights and the freedom to express those rights “are important to each of us… The men and woman that serve today in the armed forces of the United States of America, they’re giving me my rights. So I have a benefit from my service, it’s called freedom of speech. Your opinion may differ from mine, but you have a right to it. And certainly in today’s world in this country, we live in a divided nation. But you have a right to it. That’s what you call – they served.”