Cleveland High School once again gathered together in the Raider Dome to honor veterans for their time spent in service.
“Ever since July 4, 1776, our country’s birthday has been celebrated all over America. On that day we are all reminded of how much we love our country and the freedom that we’ve earned,” said Ansley McCarley, president of student government. “Everyone is familiar with Independence Day, but sometimes we take our freedom for granted and forget to remember those who have made that freedom possible.”
A video clip played out across a large screen at the front of the gym. Two young boys were picked up from school by their grandfather. The old veteran decided it was time his grandchildren understood the sacrifice made by soldiers of the United States Armed Forces.
All three entered an old movie theater and chose seats amongst the sparse crowd. The young boys were initially distracted by their cell phones before the old war clips caught their attention. Near the end, veterans of varying ages tell their loved ones, “I fought for you.”
Students at Cleveland High did their best to respect the veterans present by remaining quiet during the program and cheering with gusto at the appropriate times.
Guests at the program included State. Rep. Kevin Brooks, State Rep. Eric Watson, Supervisor of Public Relations Doug Moore, Assistant Director of City Schools Cathy Goodman, Supervisor of Counseling and Support Services Kellye Bender and Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction Jeff Elliott.
McCarley explained to her fellow students how Veterans Day was established.
“They have given so much to their country, including their own lives. This is why we celebrate Veteran’s Day. Originally Armistice Day, it began as a commemoration of the ending of World War I on November 11, 1918,” McCarley said. “After World War II it was recognized as a day to pay tribute to all service members and in 1954 it was renamed Veterans Day.”
Veteran Billy Massingale was chosen to act as the program’s guest speaker.
His military awards and decorations include: two Bronze Star Medals; eight Army Commendation Medals; six Achievement Medals; a Good Conduct Meda; a National Defense Service Medal with bronze start device; an Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars; an Iraq Campaign Medal with three campaign stars; a Combat Infantry badge; American, British, German and Honduran jump wings; a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; and a NATO Article 5 Medal.
According to Massingale, “My greatest honor in life is marrying my beautiful wife, Tina, and being a father to three wonderful daughters Jasmine, Sabra and Ellie.”
He retired as a sargent on Aug. 2, 2013, after years of serving and seeing action in Honduras, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq.
“When you try to speak for something like this, you account for about five different things you can say,” Massingale said. “When you make that short walk up here, you realize nothing you can say could convey your thanks to your community, family and friends.”
Massingale joined the Army five days after high school. Cleveland High Principal Autumn O’Bryan asked students with plans to join the Armed Forces to stand. Over 50 male and female students stood up from their spots in the bleachers.
Goodman greeted the students and left them with a reminder for Veterans Day.
“We often hear in the hallways of Cleveland High School ‘It’s a great day to be a Raider,’” Goodman said. “But on this special day, please remember it is a great day to be an American.”
She then introduced Brooks and invited him to say a couple of words.
“It is a great day to be here to honor our men and women of the Armed Forces who made today possible,” Brooks began. “These flags we are waving, the day we are celebrating is because of your sacrifice. It is because of the protection of our freedom, which is never free. You have all given. All of your families have given.”
Brooks added, “All gave some, some gave all.”
Watson continued the series of thanks to the veterans.
“Are you proud to be an American,” Watson asked the crowd. “We wouldn’t be here, if it wasn’t for the veterans’ blood and those who are serving today. A lot of other nations do not have the freedoms we have. They don’t have the freedom to play the Xbox, to ride school buses — and we take it for granted. We owe it to the men and women who served in the military.”
Student government members and the Civil Air Patrol made a special flag presentation while the names of veterans were called.
Those in attendance included: Curtis Creighton, Air Force; Peggy Goodine, Army; Alvin Howard, Army; Richard Paul Landis Sr., Army; Franklin Lemons, Navy; Bruce Magee, Army; John R. Morrow, Army and WWII vet; the Rev. W.F. Williams; Jerry Robinson, Army; Raymond Rouse, Army; Aaron Scott, Marine Corps; James Tatum Jr., Navy and Army; Edwin Davis Sr., Army; Raymond Scott, Marine Corps; Lomas Swafford, Army; Frank Thaggard, Air Force; and Edward Robinson, Army.
O’Bryan gave a final thanks before closing out the program.
“My grandfather, who was a very important person in my life, used to sit down and tell me stories of the time he was serving in the Army. He would always tell my knucklehead baby brothers that all the fighting and arguing that they did and all the video games and movies they watched, none of it could compare to the pride and fear and intensity of serving in the Armed Forces,” O’Bryan said. “So I am so extremely thankful to all of you for giving up that time, giving up that effort and serving our country in a way that many of us will ever understand.”