MARENGO – A well-known Chicago journalist who served in Vietnam urged the "leaders of tomorrow" to use peace, not war, to solve the nation's conflicts during a Marengo student assembly Monday that honored local veterans.
Grasping the lectern in front of a giant American flag, WGN news anchor Robert Jordan extolled the values of peace, negotiation and diplomacy as the more prudent approach to foreign conflicts that has underscored American history since the Revolutionary War.
Jordan, who was an Army sergeant in Vietnam, primarily directed his comments to the many Marengo and Riley students gathered inside the Marengo High School gym to honor and learn about the area veterans, who have served from World War II to the recent Middle East wars.
"You have the power to change and prevent war from happening because you will be the leaders of tomorrow," Jordan said.
Almost 2,000 students, residents and veterans attended the high school's fifth annual Veterans Day Assembly, which also recognized veterans for their service and featured patriotic performances from student choirs and the high school's drum line.
About 145 local veterans from the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard were honored, as representatives from the Marengo American Legion read each serviceman's name aloud. The student-led crowd greeted them with an ovation.
In his keynote speech, Jordan described how warfare has evolved from one-shot muskets to an arsenal of unmanned drones controlled by "armchaired" soldiers from afar.
He explained how American Col. William Prescott during the revolution famously said, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes," out of necessity to ensure accurate and lethal hits against British troops.
Now, Jordan said, the military can attack targets in civilian areas through missiles without ever seeing the enemy's face.
"We won't see the whites of their eyes," Jordan said. "We won't even know if they are women, children, innocent or guilty, and they probably won't know that bombs and rockets are about to fall on them."
The convenience brought by military advancements also comes with responsibility. The country's younger generation, Jordan said, has the power to learn from centuries of warfare and use diplomacy as the primary agent to ensure peace.
"Use this Veterans Day, and programs like this, to remember our veterans, so we never forget the sacrifices made to ensure our continued freedom," Jordan said. "Resolve that your generation will work to do this peacefully, so that no more patriotic Americans will have to give their lives in defense of our country."
Other school districts also had assemblies and events planned for Veterans Day, which was on Sunday.
Among the events, veterans met with social studies classes at Jacobs High School throughout the day. Cambridge Lakes, District 300's charter school, had a student-led choir concert.