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Loyd Star students honor area veterans

Red poppies were scattered around the base of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and a bugler played taps. The slow familiar notes echoed through the gym at Loyd Star Attendance Center.

It’s not something students see everyday at the school.

Loyd Star hosted a Veterans Day service Thursday. Organizer Michelle Case, a teacher and coach, called the program, “Sounds and Symbols.”

“After all of it was put together, I realized I had focused on different historical aspects of Veterans Day, like the poppies and the music,” she said..

Handmade paper poppies were strewn at the base of a replica of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier — a wooden structure constructed by students Zach Jenkins, Harley Davis, Jacob Piazza and Ethan Piazza.

“Worldwide, the poppy has become known as the remembrance flower for Veterans Day,” Case said.

About 32 veterans were present for the morning’s festivities, and, according to Case, the military response to the service was overwhelmingly positive.

“The veterans loved it,” she said. “When they went in to eat, they just went on and on about how much they enjoyed it.”

The Brookhaven High School ROTC, led by Col. Craig Weaver, presented colors and the Loyd Star Band performed “God Bless the U.S.A.” at the close of the ceremony.

Students and teachers put forth a great deal of effort in preparation for the memorial service. Michelle Smith and Debbie Durr helped organize the musical program and band director Jeremy Donald coordinated a somber performance of taps.

“The students needed to see a military-style program that made them proud to be an American,” Case said. “One that required them to be reverent and respect the people who have served to keep us free.”

Loyd Star’s kindergartners made laminated placemats for each veteran in attendance, and the school fed the honorees at the end of the service. The high school Beta Club held fundraisers to finance the meal, and the agriculture department prepared the meat.

The Beta Club introduced each veteran present by giving the veteran’s length of service and listing military honors received. The veterans each received a thank you for their sacrifice. Case said she wanted the students to be fully involved in the ceremony from start to finish.

“For example, they need public speaking skills,” she said. “We wanted them to be able to get up in front of people and speak.”

Weaver, who served as the program’s guest speaker, stressed the importance of recognizing national military service. In addition, teacher Laura DeLaune shared several touching words written by her late grandfather, who joined the Navy at age 17.

Case was pleased with the memorial’s outcome. She felt the students learned the importance of observing Veterans Day, and that the veterans felt properly honored.

“It turned out exceptionally well,” she said. “We have had several compliments already.”

Story by Trapper Kinchen