Buckeye Valley Middle School students recognized and showed their appreciation for those who have taken the military oath and served in the U.S. Armed Forces during Wednesday’s annual Veterans Assembly held in the school’s gymnasium.
“It’s our best assembly all year,” said Buckeye Valley Middle School Principal Brian Baker. “I’ve been here six years, and this has been going on for many years. The impromptu at the end just kind of speaks to the students and staff who are very supportive of the veterans.”
Tina Francis, the school’s career-based instruction coordinator, has headed up the school’s celebration every November for the past 14 years. A veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve, Francis has seen many of her students graduate and go on to enlist in the U.S. military.
With the help of her students, Francis organizes and breathes life into the heartfelt program for the veterans of the Buckeye Valley community.
“It was fun,” said Alexis Smith, an eighth grader at the middle school. “I like the experience of getting to know what Veterans Day really represents.”
Another student, Maddison Upchurch, said she has been watching the program for the past three years from the bleachers in the gym, but this year, she got to help in the assembly.
“It was my first year (helping), and it was really fun,” she said. “It was really cool setting it up.”
Hazely Wagner, a BV middle school student, said it was also her first year working with Francis and other students to help organize the event.
“I actually enjoyed helping to put things together,” she said. “I don’t have anyone that is a veteran in my family, so I liked the experience.”
During the program, there was at least one veteran in attendance from every U.S. military branch and conflict starting with World War II up to the present.
Chief Petty Officer Jenny Hallett, who is the middle school’s secretary, served for 24 years in the U.S. Navy. She said she served in five different countries aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise, and most of her time was spent in the countries around the Pacific Ocean.
“When I joined in 1979, women weren’t on board ships,” she said. “They just started introducing women in the mid-1980s, and then by the early ’90s, we were on board aircraft carriers and that’s when I went.”
Hallett said that after 24 years, it was time to retire.
“I loved it, but I had to stop at 24 years, because my husband was tired of following me everywhere,” she said.
The Delaware County Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp (JROTC) led by retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. F. Russ Anible, participated in the program as the color guard and gave a presentation on folding the American flag.
Russell Norton, a member of the color guard and a Buckeye Valley High School student, said it was an honor to serve in the middle school program.
“I think it’s an honor and also a great learning experience for the middle school kids can see that our program exists and that the military can be an option,” he said.
Buckeye Valley Middle School students have pledged to fundraise for Honor Flight of Columbus so that veterans can fly to Washington, D.C. for free to see the nation’s war monuments.
Honor Flight of Columbus President Josh Shore said the local organization has flown over 6,000 veterans to the nation’s capital. He added each flight has a total cost of $70,000.
After Shore’s presentation, students and veterans walked up with money in hand to donate to Honor Flight. Francis said $700 was collected for Honor Flight.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.