Thank you for your service
Area veterans were honored in a big way Friday, on Veterans Day, by the student body of Webb City High School in the Cardinal Dome.
JROTC Cardinal Battalion cadets stood at attention as the veterans entered the dome. The choir and the band both performed. Veterans stood as they heard their branch’s theme during a medley played by the band.
One of the highlights was a video of students saying “Thank you for your service.”
Principal Jeff Wilkie said, “When I think of veterans, I think of those willing to sacrifice everything so that we can enjoy freedom.”
Making the day even more special, he said, was that the guest speaker was “one of our own,” world history teacher and soccer coach Nicholas Harmon.
Harmon spoke about the history of Veterans Day and the respect he has for those who have served. He also reflected on his own experiences while on patrol and the gratitude he felt upon returning home.
After the ceremony, the Webb City Police Department led a caravan of veterans in their own vehicles on a tour of schools in the district where students were let out to wave their appreciation as the veterans passed by.
The tour ended at Memorial Park, where the Elks Club holds its annual Veterans Day ceremony.
Here is Nicholas Harmon’s speech:
I want to say thank you to the administration for asking me to speak. Thank you to the faculty and students for your support, and most of all thank you to all of you sitting here before us for your service to our country and our community. I want to preface everything today by saying I am humbled to be up here speaking. There are more qualified and certainly more decorated veterans here with us today. So I will do my best to speak on behalf of all of us.
For those of you who don’t know me I am Nick Harmon. As Mr. Wilkie mentioned, I’m a history teacher and soccer coach here at the high school. Prior to my career in education, I served one tour of duty in the Army as an infantryman with the 25th infantry division. I spent two years stationed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, and one year on a combat tour in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2011.
Today, I’m going to provide a bit of the history behind Veterans Day. I’ll share a bit about my experiences as a veteran, and in doing so, hopefully help shed some light on the importance of gratitude on this day.
In November of 1918, World War I or “The Great War” as it was known had been raging for four years. Over nine million soldiers from 30 different countries had been killed in fighting that took place across four continents. The fighting was up close, personal, and intense. It was the first war where modern weaponry such as machine guns, met traditional tactics such as open field charges. The toll was catastrophic. So much so, that people hoped it would be the “war to end all wars.”
On November 11th, 1918, at the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, leaders of the Allied Powers and Germany signed an armistice to end the fighting in the Great War. It was regarded as the treaty to end the fighting in the “War to End all Wars.”
A year later in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th as the first unofficial commemoration of Armistice Day. He said:
“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory…”
In the years following WWI, Americans celebrated November 11th with parades, public meetings, and the suspension of public businesses and schools at 11:00 am.
In 1938, congress made November 11th a legal holiday honoring the service of WWI veterans, calling it Armistice Day.
The first celebration using the name “Veterans day” occurred after World War II in 1947 in Birmingham, Alabama. A WWII veteran named Raymond Weeks organized what he called “National Veterans Day,” including a parade and festivities to honor all veterans.
In 1954, after millions more veterans returned home from the Korean War, President Dwight D. Eisenhower urged congress to strike the term “Armistice” from the Act of 1938, amending it with “Veterans.”
On June 1st, 1954, congress passed Eisenhower’s bill. November 11th officially became a day to honor American Veterans of all wars, Veterans Day.
Since Armistice Day in 1918, the end of the war to end all wars, millions of Americans have answered our nation’s call to serve in the armed forces and fight in subsequent wars, from WWII, to Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and most recently the Global War on Terror. Today we pay gratitude for their sacrifices and the burdens they carry so that we all can live in peace.
I think back on my own experiences as a soldier. I think about what this day means to me. This day brings out a lot of mixed emotions. It makes me relive everything; the good times, and the hard times.
It makes me think about the training; the endless hours of marching, the long days and sleepless nights. It makes me think about my platoon, guys from all different walks of life, how through hardship we became closer than family. It makes me think about the villages we patrolled, the sights, the smells, the surrealness of it all.
It makes me think about combat. About the adrenaline and fear that it brought. How, gradually, day after day, patrol after patrol, that fear faded into numbness. It makes me think about our mission there, about why we did what we did, and if there was any purpose in it.
But It also makes me think about the day I returned home, about how grateful and excited I was to be there. How, all of a sudden, the simplest things that I used to overlook now meant so much; a warm bed, dry clothes, a home cooked meal, and being able to spend time with the people I love.
I think about how serving changed my appreciation for life. Above all, to me Veterans Day is about gratitude. It’s about being grateful for the things that we have, and the people that we love, because of the sacrifices each generation has made throughout our nation’s history.
So in closing, I want to pay back some of that gratitude. I want to say thank you to the staff and students here for your support and recognition on this day. I am truly grateful to be a part of this school and this community. And I want to say thank you to the fellow veterans here with us today for the countless sacrifices you have made that we will never know or understand; for the wounds you carry – both visible and invisible; and for the burdens you continue to bear for our community and for our country.
As President Wilson said on the first Armistice day in 1919, may we all carry on today with a “Solemn Pride” honoring those who we’ve lost and paying gratitude to those who have served.