Newnan Crossing Elementary salutes military veterans: 'We are – because of veterans – a free country'
By W. WINSTON SKINNER
"From the Atlantic to the blue Pacific, we are – because of veterans – a free country," Mike Mitchell told students at Newnan Crossing Elementary on Thursday.
The morning program included music from the school's chorus and the presentation of the colors by the East Coweta High School JROTC. Mitchell, a coach at the school and a veteran of the Navy and Marines, talked about the unity that binds military people – and Americans.
He emphasized, "It doesn't matter what country you come from, we are all one country – united."
Mitchell said veterans have made "horrific sacrifices of blood, limb and mind to keep us safe" throughout the nation's history. He said the hardest times for soldiers are heading into combat on the first day and leaving the field of battle "on the last day."
A person serving in the military "will fight and die to protect his comrades," Mitchell said.
He also told the students that following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, all Americans are citizen veterans. "We are all comrades in arms. We are all potential targets," Mitchell said.
Students had created flags for countries around the world. At one point, they raised those flags – followed by a vigorous waving of small American flags.
"People from every nation want to come here. They come here with papers, and they come here without papers. They all want to be free," Mitchell said.
He said all Americans have something to offer in service to the nation. "Being proud to be an American citizen – to be free – is the most important thing," the coach said.
(To view photos from this event, please visit http://photos.times-herald.com/mycapture and click on Events for the Photo Gallery.)
Terri Lassetter, principal at the school, spoke of "the dedication and commitment to our country" showed by veterans. Mitchell said the freedom Americans enjoy is "the greatest gift on earth."
"We need to remember that freedom isn't free," said Gwen Melson, assistant principal. She said offering thanks daily to veterans is important and suggested each student can do so by "being a patriotic citizen and loving our country."
Mitchell said America will endure and thrive as long as there are generations of young people who will "go into the darkest and most dangerous places on earth to see face-to-face those who would do us harm."
Mitchell recognized veterans present for the ceremonies as well as Newnan Crossing faculty members who have family currently serving in the military.
Students Aaron Larkin and Cassidy Klekot shared from essays they wrote on Veterans Day themes. Larkin's father served as a military policeman, and both of Klekot's grandfathers served in the military.
"Although my grandfathers are not here today, they live through me," Klekot said. "Their legacy lives through me."
Larkin spoke of the freedoms secured by veterans including "the freedom to go to school and visit family and friends" and of "the opportunity to live in the United States of America."
Veterans Day is "a time to celebrate the past, present and future," Klekot said. She said veterans have worked toward "providing a better life for those who came after them."
Veterans "give us presents we may not be able to see," Klekot said.
Larkin also urged his fellow students to remember "the family member who keeps the family going" when the service member is on active duty.
Lassetter said the purpose of the program was "to honor men and women who have served and are serving in our military." A reception for veterans was held after the program.