Veterans Day in Lancaster County

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Students salute ‘ordinary people put into extraordinary situations’

By Reece Murphy

Lancaster County students honored local service men and women Monday with Veterans Day ceremonies at schools and other locations countywide.


Among the largest events were those organized by Andrew Jackson High School, Discovery School and Indian Land High School.

As the county’s arts-focused school, AJHS celebrated veterans and their service with patriotic music by the band and chorus, dance by two dance troupes, graphic arts by art students and martial demonstrations by the JROTC.

The theme for this year’s Veterans Day Celebration was “We Salute You.” 

“In the military, the salute is the highest form of respect paid to another,” JROTC Cadet Command Sgt. Maj. Ashley Harris said in opening the program. “Freedom rings across our great country because of the love of country held by the men and women who sit among us today.

“We are better people because of your dedication,” she said. “We are a better country because of your dedication.”

This year’s event honored approximately 30 veterans and family members. AJHS has been holding its annual event longer than anyone could remember.

Korean War veteran Linwood Reeves and wife, Maxine, of Heath Springs, said they’ve been to at least eight such events over the years, the guests of children and grandchildren who attended the school. 

The Reeves are Harris’s grandparents.

“It’s a pleasure. It makes me feel proud,” Reeves said of seeing so many young folks honoring veterans. “I know how it made me feel coming up.”

Maxine Reeves said she was 10 years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. With two brothers and two brothers-in-law serving in World War II, the war was something her family lived every day, she said, unlike many who didn’t have family members in the service.

Reeves said she believes such Veterans Day ceremonies are good for students since they keep the sacrifices of veterans and their families in the forefront of their minds.

“I think back then, people were closer, they didn’t have all the distractions we do today,” Maxine Reeves said. “I hope the children will realize what the veterans went through.”

AJHS Principal Alex Dabney said since the first Veterans Day celebration he experienced at the school nine years ago, he’s always been impressed by the reverence and respect students at the school show veterans.

He said he believes his students take more pride than most in honoring veterans.

“I think that’s because we’re still a community-based school,” Dabney said. “A lot of the veterans you see here are parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts of students.

“When you see that, it really hits home,” he said. “I think it means a lot to them.” 

Among the AJHS Veterans Day traditions is to honor one special veteran with a flag. This year’s recipient was 1984 AJHS graduate, U.S. Army Ranger, Delta Force member and Meritorious Service and Bronze Star medals recipient, Master Sgt. (Ret.) Mike Munn.

Munn said it was events such as these, that reminded veterans their service was appreciated and not a waste.

“It reminds them that they were part of something bigger than themselves,” Munn said. “That they were part of what made this nation great.”

Discovery School

Students of the Discovery School presented a patriotic performance of songs and speeches on the steps of the historic Lancaster County Courthouse on Monday in observance of Veterans Day.

During a particular monologue, they expressed that being an American means to have life, liberty and to be in the pool of freedom.

They sang, “God Bless America” with fervor.

Local veterans were honored as the students sang each branch of military’s song to honor them.

Richard Knight, a U.S. Air Force veteran who served his country from 1951 to 1991 in both active and reserve duties, held his hand high to let the students know he was there.

“It’s great to see young people take part in stuff like this,” Knight said after the program.

Charles Mullins, a retired Lancaster city police sergeant and U.S. Coast Guard veteran, attended the program to support two of his children who attend the Discovery School. He said he thoroughly enjoyed this program.

“It’s great,” Mullins said. “It means a lot.”

The Rev. Eddie McIlwain, a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves from 1973 to 1983, attended the Veterans Day program to support his granddaughter, Laresha, 7, a first-grade student of the Discovery School.

Jonathan Anteneh, 7, also in the first grade, summed up the program in just one word.

“Amazing!” he said.

Jonathan said his class had practiced patriotic songs for this special program for the past two weeks and then he shared what he wrote on a card that was to be distributed to an American veteran on Monday.

“Thank you for fighting for the USA!” Anthony’s card read.

Indian Land High School

ILHS’s event began as it always does with a special breakfast for Indian Land-area veterans sponsored by the school’s FFA club.

This year’s event paid special tribute to 44 local servicemen and women ranging from World War II veterans to new Marines, and graduates of ILHS’s Class of 2013, fresh out of boot camp – Pfc. Luis Casasola and Pfc. Eric Augeson.

The school’s Friends of Rachel Club also inaugurated a new activity in conjunction with the Veterans Day observations – Holiday Mail For Heroes.

The program, operated by the Red Cross, offers students a chance to send Christmas cards to service men and women at hospitals and military bases around the world.

“The Friends of Rachel Club’s goal is to ultimately create a culture of kindness, and what abetter way to do that than on Veterans Day,?” said club co-sponsor Marisa King. “This is a way to remind everybody and be able to touch our heroes and say ‘thank you.’”

The speaker for Indian Land’s observances was U.S. Army National Guard Lt. Col. Corol Dobson, commander of Rock Hill’s 178th Engineering Battalion.

Dobson spoke about his tours in Afghanistan, most recently as leader of Task Force Prowler, charged in part, with clearing roadways of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).

Dobson said when he was a boy, he was admonished not to ask his family members who had served in the armed forces about their experiences. But, he said he thought it was important for veterans to tell their stories.

In telling his story, Dobson told of an ambush last December in the East Afghanistan village of Espandi in which one of his men was shot during a patrol.

Dobson said a medic and Rock Hill unit member named Sgt. David Franks went to the wounded soldier’s aid during the firefight.

Needing to get the soldier out of danger’s way, Dobson said Franks picked the soldier up, threw him and his gear over his shoulder and “fireman” carried the wounded soldier several hundred feet to safety.

Dobson said the soldier recovered, and Franks earned the Bronze Star Medal with a “V” for Valorous action on the battlefield.

“So if you were wondering, ladies and gentlemen, that is what a veteran is and does,” Dobson said. “Veterans don’t think of themselves as heroes, we are just ordinary people put into extraordinary situations.

“I truly appreciate the time you take to honor us,” he said.

Among the students honoring the veterans was JROTC Cadet 1st Sgt. Jarred Duncan, whose grandfather, Lt. Col. Frank Duncan, was a U.S. Army Ranger.

Duncan said he enjoys honoring veterans.

“All the people before us who gave their lives for our country?” Duncan said. “It’s important to honor them.

“It’s amazing to me to hear their (veterans’) stories,” he said. “I think we need to thank them for their service.”

That kind of sentiment is exactly the reason why it’s important for students to honor veterans on Veterans Day, said ILHS’s JROTC commander Lt. Col. Sam Wood.

Wood said he thinks meeting veterans and hearing their stories brings history to life for students. Students understand the importance of the message, Wood said.

“You noticed how quiet they were,” he said.  “They weren’t messing around.” 

Wood said this year’s Veterans Day ceremony was especially poignant to him after the death of his father, Sam Wood Sr., of Spartanburg, on July 6. Wood Sr., he said, was a U.S. Army World War II veteran who survived the Pacific Battle of Okinawa.

Wood said while all veterans are deserving of honor, World War II veterans such as his father should be especially cherished since they’re quietly passing away at a rate of 1,400 a day.

“We only had two (World War II veterans) with us this year and we usually have three or four,” Wood said. “If you know a World War II veteran, take then time to go see them because they’re not going to be around much longer.”


Editor’s note: The Lancaster News reporter Denyse Clark contributed to this story

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151