Woodstock's Northwood Middle School honors veterans at annual ceremony

Woodstock District 200 school holds annual Veterans Day assembly

Woodstock District 200’s Northwood Middle School on Thursday held its annual Veterans Day assembly in honor of military members and fallen soldiers.

Veterans Day is Sunday and marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Thursday was Northwood Middle School’s 18th annual ceremony. City officials, including Mayor Brian Sager and Woodstock Police Chief John Lieb, were in attendance along with veterans and family members.

The event included patriotic music, the posting of the colors by the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, presentation of student awards and the annual Patriot Award and keynote speaker James Cooper, a Northwood math teacher and U.S. Navy veteran.

Cooper also founded the Veterans Day event at Northwood and worked with Patriot Award winner Rich Chilton on a project that sparked attention from national leaders in an attempt to honor Garlin Conner, Northwood Principal Bethany Hall said.

“This ended up being a long, arduous, 22-year mission,” Hall said. “This is a story of not giving up, not taking no for an answer and two things we greatly value here at Northwood – perseverance and grit.”

The plan aimed to award a Medal of Honor to Conner, a World War II soldier and war hero who had earned seven Purple Hearts, a Distinguished Service Cross and other combat awards. He died at age 78 in 1998, according to documents from the district.

Chilton had asked students across northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin to write letters to political leaders to help the effort to award Conner the Medal of Honor after five years of rejection.

Cooper’s students at Northwood participated in the letter-writing campaign that ultimately was successful earlier this spring, Cooper said.

Chilton traveled to the White House to see President Donald Trump award the medal to Conner’s widow this summer, Cooper said.

Chilton’s perseverance showed the difference a person can make, Cooper said.

“There is always one more thing you can do to influence a situation in your favor,” Cooper said. “The more ‘one more thing’ you do, the more opportunities open up.”

He spoke to the students about the importance of being an involved leader, as well.

“Be where the action is and let your actions, your words, your voice show your character,” Cooper said. “Life is not easy. You are going to be hit with adversity. ... When you are hit with that adversity, you have to believe that you will prevail in the end.”

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