Hood River Valley High School students received a living lesson in American patriotism on Nov. 8.
"We are not here this morning to promote war, but we are here to honor those who have answered the call to serve their country when war has been thrust upon us," said history teacher John Brennan, who acted as master of ceremonies for the first Veterans Day assembly held at the school in more than 10 years.
The program was spearheaded by Barbara Hosford, health and physical education teacher, and Wendy Herman, vocational transition technician at Summit Career Center. The two educators decided it would be timely to schedule the program since they had noticed a strong spirit of national loyalty among students since the September terrorist attacks on the East Coast.
"Patriotic education is important so we don't forget the people out there working for us in the trenches," said Hosford.
The 45-minute program was well-received by junior Tyler Monzie.
"I think it's good to support the military because they protect our freedom and peace," said Monzie.
Almost the entire student body responded en masse when Brennan asked them to stand if they had a friend or relative who had served, or was currently enlisted, in the United States Armed Forces.
The backdrop of nine flags to the left of the podium and 11 on the right were set up to symbolize the Sept. 11 tragedy. Brennan educated students in proper flag etiquette during the official presentation of the American emblem by the Hood River National Guard Armory Color Guard.
"When we stand for the National Anthem and face the red, white, and blue, we are not doing so to pay homage to a piece of cloth," said Brennan. "We do so to honor our Founding Fathers, and those whose blood has been spilled from Lexington green to the present time in defense of the freedoms purchased for so high a price."
He briefed students on the continuing "experiment in government" set up by America's founders that has provided generations with the ability to seek "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."
"Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble; these were not won by declaration, but by the price of blood," said Brennan.
He told his young audience that Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, was instituted at the close of World War I to remember the "war to end all wars" that, in fact, ushered in the bloodiest and most war torn century in the history of the world.
"It was to be a day to remember those who had sacrificed so much to ensure a lasting peace," said Brennan.
However, he said the name of the national holiday was changed only a few short years later when peace was destroyed by the onset of the three-year Korean War in 1950, followed by the beginning of the 16-year Vietnam War in 1959. A total of 112,000 American lives were lost in those two undeclared wars to stop the spread of Communism, according to Brennan.
In addition to these major military campaigns, he updated students on shorter duration military actions that had been undertaken in Grenada, Kuwait and Panama.
After giving a brief history lesson on each of these conflicts, Brennan introduced the 12 staff members who had served in the military and special guest veterans from major battles of the 20th century.
He strongly urged students to make a special effort to thank veterans of World War II, who once numbered 15 million strong but were now estimated to be dying at the rate of 1,000 people a day.
"I thought it was pretty educational and I think it was cool that so many of the staff served in the military," summed up Napua Wampler, a high school freshman.