Vets join students for event

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2005

VIDALIA &8212; It was a passing the torch ceremony of sorts Friday at Vidalia High School.

About 20 veterans of wars from World War II to the Iraq wars received thank yous and applause from the teenagers, and the younger of Americans got a challenge from the veterans.

&8220;You have to defend the next generation,&8221; said Principal Rick Brown, a Vietnam veteran. &8220;That&8217;s an awesome responsibility.

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&8220;Some of you are 17 to 18 years old. That was the average age of the guys in Vietnam. All these veterans gave up the prime of their life. They were willing to do what was necessary for freedom; now it&8217;s on you young people.&8221;

Student volunteers worked for close to two hours Thursday night to decorate the school gym for the ceremony. They set up a wall of names representing family and friends killed in wars and a model of the Tomb of the Unknowns.

During the program students and teachers performed and read from various patriotic texts.

Community representatives, including personnel from the local banks, also spoke and presented prizes to the veterans.

&8220;I&8217;m proud of y&8217;all,&8221; Concordia Bank&8217;s Pat Biglane said. &8220;Growing up in the Miss-Lou and seeing young boys and girls grow up that are off in harm&8217;s way in Iraq, it&8217;s special to see the high school put this on.&8221;

Veteran Delcy Merritt, who served in Germany, has attended the VHS program for several years now.

&8220;It&8217;s a fun thing,&8221; he said. &8220;I&8217;ve put seven kids through this school.&8221;

Merritt served for one year, seven months and one day, and was awarded with a silver star and a purple heart.

The gravity of what the veterans did for them is something some students admit they can&8217;t fully comprehend.

&8220;We haven&8217;t really experienced it,&8221; senior Josh Bennett said.

Jamiee Jordan agreed saying she couldn&8217;t really feel the depth of what the men and women did.

&8220;What they went through,&8221; she said, &8220;And they still survived, and then those who didn&8217;t survive it, we don&8217;t really truly understand.&8221;

But World War II veteran Frank Williams said the opposite, praising the students for what they did Friday.

&8220;They have a lot of understanding,&8221; he said. &8220;They are beginning to open up to it and know what it&8217;s all about.&8221;

Vietnam veteran Robert Williams said he thought Friday&8217;s ceremony was representative of the feelings of the students.

&8220;It&8217;s wonderful and nice to be thought of,&8221; he said.

Ferriday High School held a similar Veterans Day program Friday morning too.