Veterans honored in special ceremony

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Piggott High School hosted "A Salute To The Troops: Past, Present, And Future" Wednesday, March 19, at the high school gym in honor of local veterans.

Piggott High School Dean of Students Mike Book welcomed the audience to the assembly and said that the idea for the program was born when a former PHS student who is about to ship out visited the school last week. Book also said that thousands are making sacrifices so we can sit here today.

Book's speech was followed by the presentation of colors by members of the Piggott National Guard unit while the Piggott High School Band played "The Star-Spangled Banner".

Piggott High School senior Lauren Watson led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Mr. Barry DeHart, the PHS principal, introduced Mayor Gerald Morris.

Mayor Morris addressed the crowd and spoke of the city as a family. He continued by saying that the city approaches this situation with pride, gratitude, and a little apprehension. Morris told the soldiers, "Today, we'd like to give you a gift. The best gift we can give you today is a good memory." He followed that statement by asking them to take a look around and said, "Know we all support you and will be praying for you and our leaders until you return safely to us." Morris concluded his speech by saying "May God bless you and America."

County Judge Gary Howell was the next speaker. He expressed pride in all soldiers past and present. Howell concluded by saying, "We love you and God bless you."

Mr. Tracy Meadows, Piggott band director, led the crowd in singing "God Bless America" with Piggott High School teachers Pam Morris, Karen Coomer, Irwin Griffith, and Dean of Students Mike Book.

Retired Sergeant Major Bill Hogue, formerly of the Arkansas National Guard with 26 years in the Piggott unit and another 20 years in the military, spoke after the song. Hogue talked about the time he spent in the Sinai Peninsula after Sept. 11, 2001. He also spoke about the rough conditions in the deserts of Kuwait. Hogue said that the sand blows and makes visibility poor. "You can't see very far ahead of you," Hogue said. He continued by saying, "All America is behind you, it is a lot different than Vietnam."

Mr. Ed Thompson, President of the Piggott Veterans of Foreign Wars, approached the podium next and asked all veterans in attendance to stand. Once the veterans were standing, Thompson said, "We owe you a salute of gratitude for a job well done. "The crowd gave the veterans a standing ovation and a lengthy round of applause. He continued by introducing Rose Crafton, President of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, and the members of her group. Thompson took a moment to tell about some of the things the VFW and the auxiliary sponsor each year which include the Veterans Day Celebration, placing flags in the cemetery each Memorial Day, placing a wreath at the cemetery monument on Memorial Day, programs for youth, and a scholarship. "We owe our vets a debt of gratitude and our troops overseas need our full support," he said in conclusion.

Sergeant First Class Lance Holcomb of the Arkansas National Guard was the next speaker. He introduced the new recruits and read a list of soldiers from Piggott and Rector who have been mobilized. Sgt. Holcomb took a moment to explain that soldiers from Piggott and Rector were being called up to help the company in Jonesboro. The Jonesboro company did not have enough people trained to do certain jobs. Due to their need for more personnel, some of the soldiers from Piggott and Rector were called to go as part of the Jonesboro unit.

After reading the list, Sgt. Holcomb introduced the local recruiters from the Army and Navy.

Sergeant First Class Bobby Hicks is the local recruiter for the Army National Guard. He thanked the people at PHS for having the assembly.

Representing the Navy at the ceremony was Piggott native Michael Lemmons. Lemmons stated that he has been to the gulf two times and was a member of the PHS Class of 1995. He said things are "pretty stressful" over there. Lemmons emphasized the importance of having support from back home. "The sense of pride is unparalleled with anything else," he said, when a soldier receives pictures and letters from home. Lemmons encouraged the waving of flags and holding marches in support of the troops. He spoke of how many flags were seen immediately after September 11 and how that had number had went down. Private Lemmons received a massive round of applause when he said, "If you want to be against the war, that's fine. But don't be against our troops." After the applause died down, he continued by saying, "We're out to serve our family and friends. Our hearts belong in Piggott, Arkansas. God Bless America." As he said the last phrases, he got a little choked up. The audience gave him a standing ovation at the end of his speech.

Sgt. Holcomb approached the podium again and echoed Lemmons' final statements. He said, "Let them know you know they're over there. The hardest thing for a soldier is thinking no one cares - (after that) there isn't much left anymore." Sgt. Holcomb read a poem entitled "I Got Your Back". The author is unknown and the poem reads as follows:

"I Got Your Back"

I am a small and precious child, my dad has been sent to fight...

The only place I'll see his face, is in my dreams at night.

He will be gone too many days for my young mind to keep track.

I may be sad, but I am proud.

My dad has got your back.

I am a caring mother. My son has gone to war...

My mind is filled with worries that I have never known before.

Everyday I try to keep my thoughts from turning back.

I may be scared, but I am proud.

My son has got your back.

I am a strong and loving wife, with a husband who had to go.

There are times I am terrified in a way most never know.

I bite my lip, and force a smile, as I watch my husband pack...

My heart may break, but I am proud.

My husband has got your back...

I am a soldier...serving proudly, standing tall.

I fight for freedom, yours and mine, by answering this call.

I do my job while knowing, the thanks it sometimes lacks.

Say a prayer that I'll come home.

It's me who's got your back.

Lauren Watson asked the audience to stand for a moment of silence. After the moment of silence a recording of "Stars and Stripes Forever" was played. During the song, Sgt. Holcomb approached the microphone and said there were too many sad faces in the crowd. He told the crowd that there is a time for that, but it's not now. Sgt. Holcomb said that he has seen the members of the crowd at football games and knows that they can yell. He asked the crowd to stand up and let the soldiers know that they support them. The crowd happily fulfilled his request.

PHS Dean of Students Mike Book concluded the program by thanking the Cub Scouts of Pack 46 for a poster they made in support of the troops and said that the U.S. flags the crowd was given as they entered the gym were provided by the PHS Student Council. Book ended the presentation with the following statement, "We can go home. They're going to the other side of it to protect our way of life."

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