ANDERSON — With a choir, band and even bagpipes, Anderson High School pulled out all the stops for its annual Veterans Day celebration.
“It’s been a two-month-long process planning this,” AHS Principal Terry Thompson said afterward. “And you want everything to go perfectly because it’s not about us. It’s about the veterans, those that are in attendance and those that have gone before us.”
Thompson said they have a program, which more than 1,800 students packed into the school’s gymnasium to attend, partly for the students’ benefit as well as the veterans’.
“We have to make sure that memory lives on,” Thompson said. “It’s our job to make sure our kids know their history.”
Senior Morgan Nadaline thought the program went great and said it was a way for high school students to say “thank you” to those who have served.
“It means a lot to respect our veterans and those that gave their lives for this country,” Nadaline said.
Donjanae Chamberlain echoed those thoughts. She said Veterans Day was a way to thank soldiers who had sacrificed so much so Americans could enjoy freedom.
“They did this before we were born,” she said. “Without them fighting for us, we wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t have the freedoms we have.”
Thompson was very complimentary of the students who he said were extremely well-behaved throughout the program.
He also had high praise for the choral director Julie Wood, band directors Brad Milleman and Richard Geisler and leader of the school’s Navy Junior ROTC program. All three of those programs had a big impact on the day’s activities.
“They have worked behind the scenes getting all this ready to go for a couple months,” Thompson said. “They do a great job.”
The veterans in attendance were appreciative of the program as well. Rhea Peterson, a Navy veteran, said the day has gotten more special for her as she’s gotten older.
“When you say veteran you think of someone older, not someone young,” Peterson said. “So to see young people appreciate and recognize veterans young and old means a lot to me.”
The day was highlighted by a speech from the head of human resources at ACS, Eric Creviston. The Army veteran served for 22 years, including a trip to Afghanistan, before retiring.
He talked about how serving in the military can shape and change a person. He told a story of a young soldier named Kyle who came to him from a broken family and who was “the worst soldier in the unit” as Creviston put it.
But through patience and discipline, Kyle turned into a soldier Creviston could trust and count on. Creviston fought back tears when he told the crowd that Kyle had died in 2005, a changed man.
“I still mourn his death,” Creviston said. “But I know he died a man and he did make a difference.”
He said Veterans Day is a time to remember people like Kyle. People who have changed other people, themselves and their lives for the better.
Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB or call him at 640-4847.