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Veterans Day 2011: School honors service personnel

Hope Padgett, a student at EnterpriseAttendance Center, embraced her father after addressing the crowdof students and parents gathered at the gym to honor local warveterans and active-duty members Thursday.

    Padgett had spoken of her family and the struggles they experiencedwhile her father, Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Darin Padgett,served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    “Everyone in the family had their role,” she explained. “But whowas going to play Daddy’s role?”

    She emphasized the sacrifices soldiers make when they volunteertheir service to the military.

    “I never realized the sacrifices they make until he (wasdeployed),” Padgett said.

    An equally poignant moment capped the emotional speech as DarinPadgett rose from his seat in the veterans’ section and met hisdaughter halfway in the middle of the gym floor in an embrace.

    The student’s testimony highlighted the school’s annual VeteransDay program, entitled “A Legacy of Service.”

    Principal Shannon Eubanks said the program is completely puttogether by the student council, in an effort to give childrenanother opportunity to learn.

    “It’s all student-driven,” Eubanks said. “That’s the way we wantit. I could get up there and speak or other teachers, but the kidswouldn’t learn that way. They do a great job with it.”

    Eubanks also explained the need for a Veterans Day program at theschool was recognized a couple of years ago by Jason Avants, aformer teacher and Iraq War veteran with the Army NationalGuard.

    Thursday morning started off with students serving breakfast to themilitary members and veterans in the library.

    Willie Wells, of Brookhaven, was one such veteran enjoying themorning the students organized.

    “I think it’s a nice program,” Wells said, an Army Specialist 5thClass who spent three years fighting in the Vietnam War. “This ismy first time at a program like this.”

    Robert Gipson, an active-duty Navy aviation electrician, said heagreed that the idea of a Veterans Day program was a goodthing.

    “I think we need to see more of these programs on Veterans Daynationwide,” he said. “Only because people think basic freedoms arejust given to them, but they’re not. They’re fought for.”

    He also said while it is common to celebrate Memorial Day, it isimportant not to forget those who fought or who are fighting andwere able to return.

    “Memorial Day’s for those who go and don’t make it back,” he said.”But Vets Day is to celebrate those who do make it back.”

    Gipson went on to say programs like the one at Enterprise reallygive military members a sense of pride as well as comfort to knowhow they are appreciated.

    “It really makes you feel good about serving,” he said, “becauseyou step away from your family and friends, then step in to a placewhere you don’t know anyone. And then you return to your family andfriends, and it’s good to see the appreciation.”

    The program also included performances by a first- and second-gradechoir, music from Avants and individual recognition of the veteranspresent.

    The school’s program was centered on the main theme of appreciationto veterans everywhere.

    Student Council President Jeremy Ables perhaps put it best, readingfrom a poem entitled “They Did Their Share” by Joanna Fuchs.

    “We owe so much to them, who kept us safe from terror,” he read.”So when we see a uniform, let’s say ‘thank you’ to everywearer.”