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Veterans remembered with special program

School, community say ‘thanks.’

Local veterans had a place of honor at Gothenburg Public Schools on Veterans Day.

They were recognized on Nov. 11 with music, song, speeches and lunch.

GHS senior Landen Haake, who is also student council president, introduced the guest speakers which included 2008 graduate Alex Peyton who is a military intelligence analyst in the Nebraska Army National Guard.

School superintendent Mike Teahon followed Peyton with remarks.

Alex Peyton

“In 1918, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the hostilities that were World War I, the war to end all wars, ceased. One year later, in 1919, President Hoover proclaimed the first Armistice Day, now called Veterans Day.

We are here today, 90 years later, and sadly the War to End All Wars didn’t end all wars. In the past year we have added to the list of America’s heroes the names of 141 soldiers killed in Iraq, 286 killed in Afghanistan, and the 13 killed this last week at Ft. Hood.

I would ask you at this time to join with me in a moment of silence to honor and remember their service and their ultimate sacrifice to our freedom and this great nation.

When Mr. Teahon asked if I would be willing to come and speak today. I was a little surprised and very flattered. As the time passed, that surprise and flattered state turned into one of concern and humility.

My concern obviously comes from having to speak in front of a crowd this large. Of being up here on the stage in front of the entire school and so many people from the community.

My humility comes from being asked to speak at a ceremony honoring a group of people that I hold in very high regard—the men and women who are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Three years ago, as a junior in high school, I joined the Army National Guard. One of the first things I had to learn were the seven Army values—those being loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. The Navy, Air Force and Marines also have a set of values, and though they are worded a little differently, their values are fundamentally the same as those of the Army.

Loyalty means to bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit and other soldiers.

Duty means to fulfill your obligations. Not just those required of you by law, regulation and orders but to do your work to the very best of your ability—to make a commitment to excellence.

Respect is to treat people as they should be treated. Honor everyone’s individual worth and treat people with dignity and respect. Respect for the individual is the very essence of what makes America.

Selfless service means to put the welfare of the nation, the Army and your subordinates before your own.

Honor means to live up to all the Army values. Honor provides the “moral compass” for character and personal conduct. Though many people struggle, to define the term honor, most recognize it instinctively

Integrity is doing what is right—legally and morally. People of integrity do the right thing, not because it’s convenient or because they have no other choice. They choose the right thing because their character permits no less.

Personal courage is to face fear, danger or adversity in both a physical sense and a moral one. Personal courage isn’t the absence of fear; rather, it’s the ability to put that fear aside and do what’s necessary.

As a new recruit these were just words that I had to learn, phrases that I had to memorize, that I got yelled at if I didn’t know. However, over the last three years I’ve learned that they are much, much more than that.

These values are the legacy left to us by those who served before. A legacy handed down to us by the men and women who placed themselves in harm’s way to protect this nation. These people, the veterans of America wrote these words with their actions. Their honor, bravery, integrity, commitment and selfless service to duty have given those of us who now serve and those who will serve in the future a lofty standard to strive for.

To those veterans who are here today, I would just like to say that it is an honor and a privilege to be here this morning, to be asked to speak at the annual recognition of your service to your country, but more importantly, it is an honor and privilege to be able to stand up here on this stage and personally say to you, thank you.

I have the greatest admiration for the things you have accomplished and the deepest respect for the hardships that you have endured to keep this nation free. You have left giant footprints to fill.

I hope and pray that I am man enough and soldier enough to live up to the lofty standards that you have set.

Once again, Mr. Teahon, thank you for asking me to be here today and for giving me the honor of representing those of us who wear the uniform today as we thank those in whose footsteps we follow—America’s veterans.”

Mike Teahon

“I would like everyone to please take a moment and look at the American flag either on the wall or on the stage. The flag of the United States is one of the nation’s most widely recognized symbols.

Within the U.S., it is frequently displayed, not only on public buildings, but on private residences. It is also used as a motif on decals for car windows and clothing ornaments such as badges and lapel pins. Throughout the world it is used in public discourse to refer to the U.S., not only as a nation, state, government and set of policies, but also as an ideology and set of ideas.

Apart from the numbers of stars and stripes representing the number of current and original states, respectively, and the union with its stars representing a constellation, there is no legally defined symbolism to the colors and shapes on the flag. However, folk theories and traditions abound. One such theory is that red was selected to represent the blood of the brave service men who fought for our country and white was selected to represent purity.

When I see the flag, I see a symbol of sacrifice. I thought of sacrifice when I pulled into the parking lot this morning and saw the vehicles of the wrestling team as they got up early this morning to come to pre-season conditioning. It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice to be an athlete. It also takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice to be a good student in the classroom. It is hard work.

However, the sacrifice of our military and their families is at an entirely differently level. I want to tell you about the story of a football player named Pat Tillman.

Pat Tillman was born in San Jose, CA. He started his college career as a linebacker for Arizona State University in 1994, when he secured the last remaining scholarship for the team. Tillman excelled as a linebacker at Arizona State, despite being relatively small for the position at five-feet, 11-inches. As a senior, he was voted the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. Academically, Tillman majored in marketing and graduated in three and a half years with a 3.84 GPA.

In the 1998 NFL Draft, Tillman was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals. Tillman moved over to play the safety position in the NFL and started 10 of 16 games in his rookie season.

Sports Illustrated football writer Paul Zimmerman named Tillman to his 2000 NFL All-Pro team after Tillman finished with 155 tackles (120 solo), 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, nine pass deflections and one interception for 30 yards.

In May 2002, eight months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and after completing the 15 remaining games of the 2001 season which followed the attacks, Tillman turned down a contract offer of $3.6 million over three years from the Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army.

He enlisted, along with his brother Kevin, who gave up the chance of a career in professional baseball. The two brothers completed the Ranger Indoctrination Program in late 2002 and were assigned to the second battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Lewis, WA. After participating in the initial invasion of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Tillman graduated from Ranger School. He was subsequently redeployed to Afghanistan. In 2004, he was killed while on patrol.

That was sacrifice. While the story of Pat Tillman made national headlines because he was a famous football player in the NFL, many of the veterans you see before you made similar sacrifices when they entered the military. They gave up jobs, left families and lived in difficult situations so that we could be free. They made sacrifices. We need to thank them for what they have done and what they continue to do.

Therefore, I would like to close my comments with a challenge for all of our students, staff and guests this morning and it involves the flag, this symbol of sacrifice.

Every time that the national anthem is played, we have an opportunity to thank our veterans, our active personnel and their families for the sacrifices they have had to endure to keep us safe and free. Every one of us should be standing at attention with our hands over our hearts, showing the utmost respect.

We should remember that there will almost always be others in the crowd that have either served in our military, had family who served in our military, have family currently serving in are military or have made the ultimate sacrifice and had family that have died in service of our country.

It is disrespectful to be laughing or talking, texting or messing around. We should all be standing and showing our respect. We should also help our friends remember to be respectful when they forget this. Showing respect for the flag is a great way to say thanks. We owe this to veterans.

God Bless America.”

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