Story and photo by Jamie Puckett –
West Union High School held their annual Veterans Day celebration on Thursday, Nov. 10, which was coordinated by Mrs. Megan McCarty. The school started the celebration weeks ahead with planning and decorating for the event. Students in the high school submitted essays for the Voice of Democracy contest and sophomore Rivers Lewis, won first place. The second place winner of the contest was junior Matthew Grooms, and the third place winner was freshman Mali Delacruz. The first place essay will be sent to the national Veterans of Foreign Wars office and Rivers will compete with approximately 40,000 other students for the national prize.
The West Union FFA, led by Mr. Donnie McCarty, the freshman language arts classes, led by Ms. Heather Ward, the journalism class, led by Ms. Jamie Puckett, and the art department, led by Mr. Mike Felts, made posters, tape sculptures, string art, fabric poppies, and flyers to decorate the high school for our visiting veterans. Finally, on the junior high side of the building, various students and teachers did their part to make the building festive and patriotic.
The ceremony began with a prelude by the Liberty Band, an opening piece by Mrs. McCarty, and the posting of the colors by the WUHS Flag Corp. From there, Ethan Thompson, senior at WUHS and future member of the United States Air Force, read the Pledge of Allegiance for the school and the WUHS chamber choir performed the National Anthem.
The WUHS concert choir also performed “God Of Our Fathers” and the WUHS ladies’ select choir performed “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” in full 1940’s costume. The WUHS men’s select choir then donned sunglasses and ties to perform “Stand by Me.”
The WUHS concert band performed “When Honor Prevails” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” while the visiting Liberty Band performed the “Armed Forces Medley” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.” During the “Armed Forces Medley,” students, veterans, and staff were invited to stand and represent the veterans and active duty members that they know from each branch. The choir was directed by Mr. Neil DeAtley, the band by Mr. Carl Schneider, and the Liberty Band is by Maggie Hoff.
Seniors Coal McClanahan and Tyler Swearingen performed “Taps” and patriotic readings were presented by seventh graders Haylee Davis and Maddie Taylor, and high school students Dakota Nehus and Ethan Thompson.
The following flag folding ceremony was narrated by sophomore Nathan Young and performed by the WUHS Flag Corp. The Flag Corp was under the direction of veteran, William Conn.
The highlight of the ceremony was our honored guest speaker, Machinist Mate Petty Officer third class submarine qualified, Russell Todd, Jr. Mr. Todd enlisted in 1991 and attended boot camp less than a week after his high school graduation. He served on the USS Puffer and by 1993 he earned the title “Submarine Warfare.” He was deployed several times in his five plus years of service and he was honorably discharged. Today, Mr. Todd serves as a Veterans Service Officer and he has two daughters. One daughter is married to a service member and his other daughter is currently serving with the 82nd Airborne Division.
Mrs. Miranda Rhonemus offered the closing remarks and the WUHS Flag Corp retired the colors. The members of the WUHS Flag Corp include: Skyler Johnson, Rebekah McCarty, Carson McFarland, Chris Silhavy, Nathan Music, and Marcus Jacobs. Principal Roger Taylor, accepted the flag in honor of our veterans and active duty members.
The West Union FFA officers helped extensively with decorations and the organization of the Veterans Day celebration. The officers served the veterans a luncheon, escorted the speakers around the school, and helped with the general hospitality and support of our honored guests. The FFA officers include: Shannon Runyan, Rebekah McCarty, Cassidy Price, Morgan Edmisten, Jaycee Baldwin, Houston Adkins, and Josie Hackworth.
Two different war reenactments were held as part of the celebration. The first reenactment featured a soldier in full Civil War garb preparing a war time meal. The Grassy Run Historical Arts Committee provided a live demonstration of war time weapons and clothing.
The visiting veterans were provided a luncheon catered by Heslers’ Catering. A special nod of appreciation goes out to Marla Hill, Vonda Davis, and Taylor Grooms for helping with costume, hair, and makeup preparations. Thanks also to Janice McCarty, Mrs. Amanda Blanton, Mr. Roger Taylor, the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 100, and Margaret Blevins for their donations to the veteran luncheon.
The West Union High School students and staff would like to thank all of the veterans in attendance for the Veterans Day ceremony. The veterans in attendance that served in the United States Army were: James Saling, Harry Shoop, Corbett Phipps, Dakota Chaney, Keith Swearingen, Bill Knauff, Russell Bradford, Joe Rastine, Tony Blevins, William Conn, Robert Lewis, Don Grooms, Kenneth White, Richard Heater, Jim McClanahan, Sam Shirley, William Swearingen, Thomas Brown, and Leo Trotter. Mr. Trotter also served in the Navy.
The veterans in attendance that served in the United States Navy were: Russell Todd Jr, Timothy Daniel, Tim Phelps, Greg Roberts, John Willman, and Kimberly Kemp.
The veterans in attendance that served in the United States Marine Corps were: Edward Harmon, Frank Vance, Owen Evans, Stephen Stamper, and Jeffrey Tolle.
The veterans in attendance that served in the United States Air Force were: Mike Chaney, Raymond Buda, John Nehus, John Dixon, Ray Seaman, and Dan Combs. The school was also honored to host J.J. Whitley from the United States Seabees Construction Battalions.
Other honored guests included the women from the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 100: Louise Davis, Bonnelene Hawkins, Shirley Stapleton, Patty Stapleton, Sheila Mills-Ferguson, Terry Ayers, Virgina Grooms, and Margaret Blevins. WUHS also proudly mentions their own American Legion Auxiliary member, Sianna Mills. Lastly, the members from the Daughters of the American Revolution included Rebecca Semple and Jo Ann White.
Some veterans and other affiliated speakers chose to stay to speak with students and those speakers included: Grover Swearingen, Harry Shoop, Owen Evans, Tommy Brown, Dakota Chaney, Russell Todd, Corbett Phipps, Jo Ann White, William Conn, Wendall Swearingen, Timothy Phelps, Ethan Irwin, Ron Goodwin, Gerald Shiveley, and Tim Daniel.