Songs were sung, flags were raised and American heroes were honored at Johnston County Schools’ annual Veterans Day celebration.
The annual celebration, held Tuesday at Smithfield-Selma High School, is an opportunity for the school system to honor the community’s veterans. Members of every JROTC chapter at Johnston’s high schools marched and displayed their colors in front of a packed-to-the-brim crowd in the SSS gymnasium.
In the ceremony’s invocation message, Lt. Colonel Robert Boyette, director of Veteran Services in Johnston County, referenced a prayer General George S. Patton used to address his troops in the Third Army in Germany in December of 1944. The prayer says when things go wrong in the world, it is because there are more battles than prayer.
“Let us remember that only two defining forces have ever died for you. One was a United States service member, who was willing to die for your freedom, and the other was Jesus Christ, who died for your soul,” Boyette said.
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Several JROTC members gave remarks at the ceremony, including Macy McRory from SSS, Taryn Perry from North Johnston High School, Justin Godwin from Cleveland High School, Nolan Carlisle from West Johnston High School and Ryan Fournier from Corinth Holders High School. The Johnston All-County Chorus and band also performed several songs.
In her opening speech, McRory read a quote from the program stating the definition of a veteran.
“What is a veteran? ‘Someone who at one point in his or her life wrote a blank check to the United States of America for an amount up to an including his or her life,’” McRory said.
Retired U.S. Army service member Sergeant Major Lynn Widener was the ceremony’s guest speaker. When it comes to the country’s treatment of veterans, Widener said he thinks history has a way of repeating itself.
Widener chronicled what he sees as a never ending cycle of government inaction toward programs and aid for veterans, capped off by problems at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that have recently come to light.
Veterans deserve better, he said, and it’s important that they work together if they want change.
“This past election will not get you the benefits you so richly deserve. It’s a start, but as you can see, history repeats itself over and over and over,” Widener said. “For the veterans seated here and in other ceremonies throughout the country, each of you can fulfill your contract to the rest of the veterans seated next to you by starting today with your original Oath of Enlistment.”
Widener asked all the veterans in the room to stand up and join him in reciting the military Oath of Enlistment, but with a modification: he asked veterans to vow to obey all “lawful” orders of the president and officers appointed over them. The word “lawful” is not in the oath, but it is implied. It was important to Widener that the word be used.
Veterans submitted photos of themselves and their service member loved ones for a slide show played during the ceremony. But the projector screen wouldn’t lower, so the crowd had to watch the show with the American flag as a backdrop.
Superintendent of schools Dr. Ed Croom said he thought that was appropriate.
“As that PowerPoint began to play, I realized that the pictures on the screen and every veteran here today was woven into pure fabric of the United States flag,” Croom said.