Everyone, who serves in the armed forces of the United States makes sacrifices. Sometimes those sacrifices are simple things, such as missing anniversary celebrations or the birth of a child.
Other times those sacrifices are much more substantial as some come home scarred either physically, emotionally or both.
“Then you have those that made the ultimate sacrifice. They are not here with us because they gave their life for the freedoms we have today,” Master Sgt. Don Gross, a JROTC instructor at Whitley County High School, told a crowd gathered for a Veterans Day celebration Monday morning. “We have come to honor those, who have given us the freedoms we have today.”
Schools in Whitley County and Williamsburg thanked area veterans during Veterans Day ceremonies Monday.
Students from Whitley County High School and Whitley County Middle School turned out to support local veterans Monday morning.
The Whitley County JROTC held a breakfast for local veterans, followed by a Veterans Day ceremony at 10 a.m.
JROTC members lined up on each side of the gym as the names of each branch of the service were read followed by the playing of each branch’s official song. A JROTC cadet carrying that branch’s flag then led veterans from that branch of the service through the lines of cadets to their seats.
At the front of the group was an empty wheelchair to represent the late Gillis Clawson, a WWII veteran, who died a few weeks after last year’s ceremony, and a veteran, who had been to every WCHS Veterans Day ceremony in recent memory.
Also during Monday morning’s ceremony, the JROTC program recognized WWII veteran Hubert Siler, 101, who served in the Pacific campaign.
2003 WCHS graduate Andrew Fuson, a local veteran who served in both the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy, was the keynote speaker for the Whitley County event. While with the marines, Fuson did two tours of duty in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and one deployment with the Navy during the American led intervention in Syria.
Fuson said that when trying to decide what to say to the future of America, he considered many things to speak about, ranging from the problems he has had, the accomplishments completed and the medals that he has been awarded.
Fuson noted that his accomplishments are important to him, but primarily as a reminder of where he has come from.
“I have fought many battles on foreign lands and in foreign seas. I’ve fought for life, for freedom, love and hate. I have found refuge in prayer during the many battles that I have faced,” Fuson told the crowd. “Battles against an enemy. Battles against failure and some against myself. All have been worth it.”
Fuson spoke on the topic of everyday war in life and how to achieve victory.
“The concept I have come to understand is that it is all a matter of perspective regarding the justification for the fight. Why we decide to engage in battle and why not. Asking ourselves what led to the battle, what would we gain from it, and why do we sometimes want to give up on battles. These simple questions help us understand who we are. Depending on how you answer, that will tell you a lot about yourself,” Fuson said.
“A good warrior will put in the work to prepare for war. A good warrior will pray to the almighty for guidance and clarity … My fellow Americans, you too must be strong and fight righteously. You must look to the glory that is to be gained from victory, and find the courage to fight because the Lord is with you.”
Fuson added that the last line he wrote in a war journal he kept during his second deployment to Iraq is that “all things are possible through Christ that strengthens me.”
Williamsburg Independent School’s celebration took place Monday afternoon, and featured performances of patriotic music by the Williamsburg High School Band and the Williamsburg High School Choir.
The Whitley County JROTC presented the colors during the event.
The University of the Cumberlands Drum Line also performed.
During the ceremony, students read off the names of current and former veterans, who were in attendance, their branch of service, their rank and the years that they served.
Main Street Baptist Church Pastor Donnie Bruce Patrick was the keynote speaker for the event noting that Monday those in attendance were honoring those willing to face bullets, bombers and missiles.
“Today we honor across our country not the twists and turns of a Hollywood movie, but real life men and women, who served heroically. For that we say thank you,” Patrick noted.
Patrick quoted his brother-in-law, Sgt. Jake Combs, who is a 1989 alumnus of WHS and once said as he was preparing to leave his wife and three sons to go to the Middle East, “I will go in hopes that they will not have to or need to.”
“That is heroic,” Patrick added. “Let’s say thanks often and not wait for an event to do so.”
The event concluded with a flag folding ceremony by members of the American Legion Post 88 Honor Guard, which is located in Corbin.
Students read off what each fold of the flag represented as the honor guard was making the fold.