ANDERSON, Ind. — Most of the pictures sliding across the projector screen suspended above the stage were of men with serious expressions. And if pride and patriotism had a look that could be easily defined – they were all wearing it.
In the background, the lyrics to Toby Keith’s “American Soldier” played, washing over more than 540 cadets watching the video presentation.
The photos, of young soldiers serving their country, were part of the Anderson Preparatory Academy's annual Veteran’s Day celebration. The cadets honored the soldiers Tuesday, instead of the national holiday, because their military resources are often used at other events on Veteran’s Day.
But this holiday is one of special importance to the academy.
“You can’t buy or create military tradition – you have to build it,” said Major Jeff Dorman.
These soldiers had a special connection to some of the cadets. They were family members.
Hannah Harpst, 17, is a senior at the academy with an extensive history of family members who have served in the military.
“The list is uncountable,” Harpst said. “It goes all the way back to the Civil War.”
Harpst said she made her decision to follow a military path her freshman year.
“The military was just right for me,” she said. “I made that decision before I knew of my family’s legacy.”
Harpst was especially touched by this year’s speaker, Capt. Cliff Henderson, an instructor at the academy and a retired member of the Army.
Henderson spoke about three men he either recruited into the military or served with who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. He also shared the story of one man whose life was forever changed by his time in the service after being shot in the temple.
“Basically, I wanted them to know what Veterans Day means,” Henderson said. “It’s a day to honor our veterans and their sacrifices.”