Published Friday, November 09, 2012
By NICHOLE GOLDEN
With a voice clear and true Arnall Middle School eighth-grader Marina Maldonado honored veterans Thursday with a beautiful rendition of “God Bless America.”
The school held its annual program in advance of Veterans Day with guest speaker Sergeant Neil Mangum, and keynote speaker Colonel Doug Carpenter.
Dr. Jan Franks, principal, welcomed guests, with a quote from author Cynthia Ozick — “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”
“How fitting that quote is today,” said Franks. “This is an honor and a privilege and we’re so blessed to have you here,” she told the veterans.
Seventh grade social studies teacher Pamela Ridge organized the program and said it’s all about honoring the veterans, and teaching the students. “We do want them to know the proud legacy they’ve inherited,” she said.
Ridge recognized each attending veteran and their branch of military by name, and also thanked family members for their sacrifices. She spoke about the “greatest generation” of the World War II years — and another great generation, the founders who wrote the U.S. Constitution which is “unique in all the world.”
Ridge reminded the students that the rights and freedoms they enjoy have been “bought with a heavy cost.”
(To view photos from this event, please visit http://photos.times-herald.com/mycapture and click on Events for the Photo Gallery.)
Brady Taylor, seventh grade student and winner of the Patriot Pen Essay Contest, read his piece during the program. “Freedom is not free, but is worth fighting for,” he read. Taylor also mentioned his brother, who has served in the military. “I am proud of him,” he said.
Sergeant Neil Mangum relayed the story of a teacher who removed all the chairs from the classroom with the students arriving to find no place to sit. The teacher says, “If you can tell me how you earned your chair, I’ll give it to you.”
Did the student who made straight A’s earn the chair? No. The captain of the football team? No. The student with wealthy parents? No. The students quizzed the teacher to find that other men and women earned the chairs for them with their service to country.
“They did it because they answered the call of duty,” said Mangum. He challenged the students to “prove” their appreciation by taking advantage of an education, to go forward and be functional and do something “that benefits the country as a whole.”
Colonel Doug Carpenter shared his story of piloting a B-2 Stealth Bomber on a 30-hour mission across the Atlantic in a past war. The details of the mission are still classified.
“The stealth technology makes it very hard to find on enemy radar,” explained the colonel.
Carpenter kissed his wife and then-baby daughter goodbye in the middle of the night, and wondered if he would ever see them again, given the danger of his mission. He and his co-pilot left from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. They knew it was no ordinary mission as they received the blessing of a priest before take-off.
“This was combat,” said Carpenter.
The two were also armed with 9mm pistols in the event they had to eject in enemy territory. “That was going to be my only means of self-protection,” he said.
The plane took off as the sun begin to rise. “I’ll never forget that sunrise,” said Carpenter.
The B-2 was refueled in-flight, and the bomb run went as well as could be expected.
After a successful mission, they headed quickly toward friendly airspace. Carpenter said just how fast they were flying is “classified,” but that they “were hauling butt.”
Carpenter’s tale was a concrete story of how freedoms are sometimes being protected while average Americans are asleep in warm beds.
Carpenter said there are several things that bond veterans together including personal sacrifice and teamwork. For him, friends, family and neighbors helped make his service possible. He likes to celebrate Veterans Day by reflecting on the “bigger team... all of us here in America.”
The colonel ended his message by saying “God Bless You and God Bless America.”
The eighth grade band, led by Director Gena Wayne, performed “The Armed Forces on Parade: A Service Medley.” The ROTC of Northgate High School presented the colors.
The seventh and eighth grade choruses with soloists Christian Knobloch and Emily Shaugnessy performed “God Bless the U.S.A.” under the direction of Robin White.
Bradley Hellendoorn performed “Taps” as those present solemnly remembered lives lost in service to the United States of America.
Veterans and other guests were treated to a reception in the school’s art room following the program.