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22 veterans honored

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● Published by Jet Burnham

Students visit with veterans and their families at a private luncheon. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

Gallery: 22 Veterans [6 Images] Click any image to expand.

Student Body Officers at West Jordan High School organized a Veteran’s Day Assembly to express appreciation and honor to veterans who might think teens don’t care about their service. 

“Our Veteran’s Day Assembly is to show our student body what kind of sacrifice our veterans have made,” said SBO Chase Dean Harward. “It’s a time when we honor their service and we honor the things that they did and thank them for it.” 

Cassity Oertle, senior class president, said the program focused on veterans as individuals. 

“It’s their time to stand up there and be thanked formally,” she said. “I think that’s one of the coolest parts. That doesn’t happen very often for them.” 

Personal information about each veteran was shared, like their favorite places they’ve served, their hobbies and interests, and their words of advice to young people. 

“I really liked hearing all the bios about every single veteran,” said SBO Lauren Brown. “That was cool to hear something personal about them and exactly what they did—it made you respect them even more.” 

Each SBO invited a veteran to be honored at the assembly. Some were family members or neighbors. Each veteran received a stack of thank-you letters written by students and two lapel pins—one with an American flag and one with the WJHS theme. 

The 22 Veterans that participated were pleased with the program.

“West Jordan outdid themselves—it was wonderful!” said Eddie Blandford, an Air Force veteran. “It’s a welcome sight to see young men and young women stand, all of them with their hands over their heart. It was a great show of patriotism by the West Jordan students,” said Blandford. He also said it gave him hope for the future of the country. “These kids get it.”

Active duty Marine Steve Merkley spoke to the student body about how he is proud to sacrifice for his country. 

“You are worth it!” is his response when people thank him for his service. He said knowing that he is has the support of the American People is what keeps him going when times are tough. 

Daniel Silva, who served in the Marines for 24 years during two wars, said veterans like to feel supported. He didn’t get appreciation when he got home from Vietnam. His experience was better when he came home from Iraq.

“Coming back from Operation Desert Storm, the ship rolled in and people are out there cheering—that was pretty cool,” Silva said. He feels strongly that young people would have a better life if they each had the opportunity to experience military service. He said being in the Marines had an immense affect on his life.

The musical numbers for the assembly were powerful and patriotic. The Madrigals performed the National Anthem, and the Swing Choir and band performed “God Bless the USA”. Veteran Joel Salazar said he was very moved by the “Homeward Bound” piece that the concert choir and orchestra performed. 

SBO Brady Oldroyd’s grandpa, Larry Banks, performed a lively guitar solo, which had won him the All Pacific Army Entertainer contest. He had entertained troops all around Vietnam and Korea with his quick fingers.

The program ended with WJHS alumnus Evan Bullard playing “Taps” on his trumpet.

After the assembly, veterans and their families were invited to a luncheon with SBO students. 

“I think that’s the payoff for these kids—to be able to sit down and interact with them on a more personal level,” said SBO Adviser Richard Hoonakker. “They hear some fun stories. It’s pretty fun to watch that.” 

SBO Brooklyn Booth sat with a group of veterans at the luncheon and was able to hear about their personal experiences. She said meeting those who have served the country was a unique experience for her. There fewer opportunities to meet WWII veterans, such as Douglas A. Smith, who was the first of the 18-year-olds drafted into the Army during World War II. Booth said meeting the actual people who have fought made it more real to her.

“I think it puts it more into perspective,” Booth said. 

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