With a patriotic salute, gifts and heart-felt thanks, Concord Christian School students honored area veterans last week.
“We Will Not Forget: A Patriotic Salute to our Nation’s Veterans” was held Wednesday, Nov. 8, in First Baptist Concord Worship Center, and was hosted by the church’s Outreach Center, its Warrior’s Heart Ministry and Concord Christian School and Preschool.
Veterans from all over the community were invited to attend the program, which was held earlier this year than it had been in the past.
“We normally do have it on Veteran’s Day, but with it being on Saturday this year, we wanted to offer our veterans the choice to participate in other activities, too,” said Stephanie Mason, director of admissions and marketing with Concord Christian School.
And, area veterans responded in kind, attending by the dozens.
Students from all grades participated in the event, from enthusiastically waving American flags, to singing and performing in the school’s marching band. Musical selections included a medley salute to all five branches of the armed services, during which veterans of each were encouraged to stand and be recognized.
Students had also hand-written thank-you cards, which were presented along with small gifts, to each veteran.
Guest speakers were Retired U.S. Army/Air Force Lt. Col. Charlie Brakebill and Col. Thomas Cauthen, who currently serves as wing commander of the 134th Air Refueling Wing for the Tennessee National Guard.
Brakebill, 93, was called into active duty in the Army in 1943 and served three years in Europe during World War II – including at Omaha Beach in Normandy.
Also serving in the Korean Conflict and Berlin Conflict, Brakebill spoke directly to the students when he took the stage, and told them how touched he was with their tributes.
“I got a tear in my eye seeing you all,” he said. “And what I want these beautiful children to remember, and not forget, are those whose shoulders we are standing on.
“I am so thankful, and grateful, for those who have gone on before us.
“It is why we are here,” added Brakebill, who retired from the Air Force in 1967. “Because of those who went on before us. And, it is not just soldiers but for you [children] it is your parents, your neighbors, your friends and your families who have helped make you what you are today.”
Cauthen who was active duty Air Force before serving with the National Guard, also said he was “blown away by the enthusiasm of the students.
“That is why veterans pledge their oaths and why they make the commitment,” he said. “Veterans are willing to fight every day, for our freedoms, and we certainly stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.”
“‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,’” Cauthen said, quoting former President Ronald Reagan. “‘We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.’”
“From what I have seen today, I can tell that the students at Concord Christian School get it — they understand what Reagan was talking about.”
Cauthen also showed a short video presentation, offering a bird’s-eye view of how the 134th Air Refueling Wing accomplishes its missions.
Cauthen added that while military personnel certainly make sacrifices, their family members do, too.
“And, if [those in the military] don’t have support, then we don’t have members of the military," he said
Having the two speakers, one retired and the other on current active duty, was a decision deliberately made, Mason said.
“Not only did we want to honor our veterans, but we also wanted it to be a learning opportunity for our students," she said. "We want them to know about history, but we also wanted it to be relevant to the here and now, and I think Col. Cauthen certainly did, speaking from a Knoxville perspective.
“Not all veterans are the ones you think about from World War I or World War II, but are activity involved, right now, in protecting our nation.”