ST. ALBANS — More than 2,800 students from five area schools gathered in Taylor Park at 11 a.m. on Wednesday to honor local veterans.
The event was organized by students from Team U.S.A., a seventh and eighth grade community at St. Albans City School (SACS).
St. Albans Town Educational Center (SATEC) eighth grader Joshua Cave said, “We need to provide for our veterans.” Veterans having to wait for health care, he said, is a “disgrace.”
He also spoke of the bravery of the country’s soldiers, “Americans have never been unwilling to pay the ultimate price of freedom,” he said.
“It’s an honor to stand here today among heroes and patriots,” said Kiarah Anderson, of SACS.
Anderson, the daughter of a veteran, reminded the audience that the families of veterans also pay a cost for their service, speaking eloquently of the fear and loneliness of families when a loved one is deployed overseas.
Aiden Williams, of Georgia Elementary and Middle School, is the son of an active duty soldier who has been on three overseas deployments and is preparing for a fourth. “I appreciate everything he does for our family and our country,” said Williams.
When Williams said, “If you have an American flag be sure to raise it to full staff,” the students, who were all given American flags, lifted them into the air.
Williams also reminded the crowd that Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, and the date of Nov. 11 is the anniversary of Germany’s surrender in the First World War. In the U.S., the day was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.
Fairfield Center School student Logan Piazza urged the students to “thank all men and women in uniform when you see them.”
“In St. Albans, we have a long history of remembering the men and women who fought for our country,” said Cordelia Bell of Bellows Free Academy (BFA), noting the memorials located in the community and in schools such as BFA. “These memorials are physical representations of the courage and honor of our service members.”
Quoting Pres. John F. Kennedy, Bell said, “We must always remember that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Retired Rear Admiral Warren Hamm told the crowd veterans are “the bedrock of our country.”
He told the students, “You must begin to stand tall and learn from these veterans and take their places.”
People enter the service for a number of reasons, said Hamm, among them education, “nothing else to do, or the judge gave you two choices.”
Regardless of the reason, “When we raised our right arm, we gave up the free spirit kind of life,” said Hamm. “All during the service our country came first. We did not worry about individuals or getting credit.”
“We have been out in the world and we know the score,” Hamm said of veterans. We “understand as long as there are people, there will be conflicts,” he added.
“Push America. Speak out. Do not accept poor leadership,” he urged his follow veterans.
To the students, Hamm said, “You are the veterans of tomorrow. Start putting into practice what the veterans of today have learned. That is the thanks we veterans desire.”
The ceremony also included the reading of the list of the names of area veterans who have died since Memorial Day by.
A group of veterans, accompanied by students, laid wreaths to honor the fallen, while everyone rose silently to their feet.
Local veteran Dave Bruley and Forrest DesLauriers of SACS served as masters of ceremony for the event.
The event ended on a moment of levity, when the crowd caught sight of a man watching from atop a building across the street, and waved. He waved back.