The entire student body of Pacific High School filed into the gymnasium Nov. 11 to applaud and cheer as 76 area veterans were announced and escorted to their seats by students in the JROTC program.
It was the 11th year that the school has held an assembly to honor veterans.
Following a brief sign-in session in the old gym, Gunnery Sgt. Brian Cain read the name, rank and branch of service of each of the veterans from the Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force.
After the JROTC cadets presented the colors, Pacific High School senior Trish Baker sang the national anthem.
The band saluted the veterans with “Armed Forces on Parade,” a medley of the theme songs of the branches of service, including “Anchors Away,” “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” “Marine Hymn” (From the Halls of Montezuma) and the Army Air Corps hymn “Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder.”
Keynote speaker Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Brian Fogarty, 3rd Btn., 23rd Marines, reminded the assembly that Veterans Day was a day to honor all men and women who had served in the U.S. military.
“It began after World War I which ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918,” Sgt. Fogarty said. “That is when the World War I Armistice was signed.”
The veterans sat quietly as rousing martial music was played and dignitaries said flowery and at times emotional things about the part they played in U.S. history.
Harold Gan, who served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Hancock from 1957 to 1961, said the program brought back memories of his time served.
“It made me proud that the kids recognized that we had been there and done something,” he said.
Gan had another reason to be proud at the ceremony. Two of his grandchildren, Cadet James Gan and Cadet Dana Gan, are members of the Pacific High JROTC, which hosted the celebration.
Riley Pemberton, who spent two years on the DMZ in Korea, also found his thoughts drifting to the young people in the audience as the ceremony ensued.
“I sat there looking at all those kids and wondering if they have any idea or know what a war zone is like,” Pemberton said. “I hope they never find out.”
In addition to surviving veterans who are celebrated each year on Nov. 11, Pacific High School Principal Tom Sauvage said a thank-you ceremony for veterans would not be complete without remembering those who did not survive.
“We want to take a moment to remember those who never came home to be thanked,” Sauvage said.
Jim Brune, former Pacific police chief, who spent two tours in Vietnam and attends the PHS program every Veterans Day, said the ceremony always leads him to be thankful for those who came back and to remember the many who came home with serious wounds.
“I’m just glad I came home whole and have a family and community that appreciates our service,” he said.
The ceremony concluded with the PHS band playing a soulful arrangement of John Philip Sousa’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic” as the student body stood and cheered while the veterans filed out of the gymnasium.