WOODSTOCK – Even back when nearly every other detail was yet to be determined, organizers knew one thing about Thursday’s Veterans Day Assembly at Northwood Middle School.
Custodian and Vietnam veteran Barry Mishler would be the keynote speaker.
“The planning committee, when we had our first meeting, we thought, ‘Who else?’ ” reading interventionist Rosemary Fulgenzi said.
Mishler, who was discharged in 1971 and has spent the past 10 years at Northwood, talked about the sacrifices made by soldiers and their families, challenges faced by veterans and the importance of saying thanks in front of a packed Northwood gym Thursday afternoon.
“It was hard,” Mishler said afterward. “There are a lot of emotions in this ceremony.”
The attire worn by sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders turned the bleachers red, white and blue for the 13th annual assembly, a yearly event since 9/11. Veterans – so many that school officials scrambled to create extra seating – sat in lines of foldout chairs on the gym floor. Students greeted them with a lengthy standing ovation as they walked in from the library, where they’d gathered before the celebration.
This year’s event carried a “What Patriotism Means to Me” theme, and students wrote essays exploring the topic. Writers of the top essays from each grade received a framed flag that has flown over the Capitol building.
Students also were as much a part of the assembly as they were there to attend.
A group dressed in olive green ponchos and smoothed helmets created a live version of the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
The sixth-grade orchestra performed the national anthem, the choir performed “On Top of the World” by Imagine Dragons, and a couple of students – Hannah Johnson and Nick Mueller – played taps during a tribute to fallen veterans.
“We take so much for granted,” said Amanda Valdes, a student who at the assembly shared her story of being born in Cuba but becoming an American citizen two years ago. “And I’m not talking about technology. We take freedom for granted.”
Valdes, like other speakers, thanked the veterans for making the country what it is, and said that people should keep them in mind every day – not just Veterans Day and 9/11.
For Capt. Dave Brady, a brigade chaplain who was in attendance for his third consecutive Northwood assembly on Thursday, the ceremony was a reminder that people are thinking about them.
“It means that the community is interested in what the military does,” Brady said.