An atmosphere of patriotism and honor filled the Larry C. Banks Memorial Gymnasium at the Brown County High School as local veterans were honored for their dedication to their country.
The Veterans Day program took place on Nov. 12 at the high school. The band played and choir sang patriotic songs as service members entered and took a seat.
Brown County Schools Superintendent welcomed veterans. Teachers Emily Lewellen and Alecia Adams introduced the Brown County High School history club.
Lewellen said that for the past five years, the club has dedicated itself to supporting local veterans in various ways.
Because of that commitment, Brown County Schools were honored with the Purple Star School Award, which is given for significant commitment of service members, students and families connected to the nation’s service.
“It is because of you we have earned that recognition,” Adams said to the veterans. “Thank you.”
Three of the club members, Kelli Branson, Annika Evenson and Abby Padgett, spoke to the veterans.
“We’re here today to honor those who served our nation,” Branson said. She introduced Evenson, who read “In Flanders Field,” a poem by WWI Canadian soldier John McCrae.
“McCrae gave (WWI soldiers) a voice through his poem,” Branson said.
Padgett told the veterans that as a “military brat” herself, she personally understands the sacrifices made by soldiers and their families.
“Soldiers sacrifice their time, bodies and minds and even in some cases their lives to protect us and defend our country,” she said. “Though we can never truly repay your service, we hope that our appreciation and gratitude serves as a small reminder of how thankful we are. On behalf of Brown County students, we thank you for your service and sacrifice.”
President of the Brown County Veterans Coalition Commander Keith Baker presented the club with a plaque for the Purple Star recognition.
“This award signifies our unity with the school,” he said. “Veterans of Brown County convey our sincere appreciation for the support and special bond that exists between our schools, our veterans and military families.”
The program’s keynote speaker was Jason Callahan, Assistant Secretary of Pathways and Opportunities for Indiana Department of Education.
He joined the department January. Before that, he served for 20 years as a building and district administrator in Indiana schools.
He is also a veteran who served four years in the United States Air Force.
Callahan said he saw the day as a bridge, to not only honor local veterans’ past and present service, but to look to the future and its development.
“Your service has paid for the liberties we enjoy each and every day in this country,” he said.
Callahan gave the audience a call to action: to dedicate themselves to serve others, personal responsibility and hard work.
“If we’re willing to work hard and learn, willing to sacrifice time and effort, it will take us to wherever we want to go,” he said.
During his four years of service, Callahan said the Air Force developed his character, work ethic and leadership abilities.
“I would not be here today without the Air Force,” he said.
Service and sacrifice, Callahan said, are intertwined.
“To serve requires some type of sacrifice,” he said. He himself joined the Air Force to pay for college.
“I was going to sacrifice time for my country to do something meaningful, and my reward was college to be paid for,” he said.
After entering into the world of education, he encountered a student who graduated and joined the Marine Corps. He lost his life serving in Iraq in 2004.
Callahan said that in a letter his student wrote, he remarked on the cost of freedom: “Freedom is not free, it requires sacrifice.”
“Today we have an opportunity to honor some men and women in our community for their sacrifice and service,” Callahan said. “Thank you.”