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Honoring by remembering: WHS Veteran’s Day program hosted Friday morning

WORTHINGTON -- Friday morning's Worthington High School Veterans Day program paid tribute to those who fought for their country. The WHS gymnasium was filled with students, staff, veterans and community members who assembled to honor and celebrat...

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WHS student Nordeen Abdu reads one of the "Letters from War" during Friday's Veterans Day program at the school. (Martina Baca /Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Friday morning’s Worthington High School Veterans Day program paid tribute to those who fought for their country.

  The WHS gymnasium was filled with students, staff, veterans and community members who assembled to honor and celebrate the service of men and women. The program gave personal insights into the experiences of veterans through letters they sent while in combat.

  Sam Becker, a U.S history teacher at WHS and the program’s organizer, prepared the program with the assistance of several students. Becker said the idea of the theme, “Letters from War,” came from one of the books she uses in her classes.

  “When we studied the Vietnam War, I have a book called ‘Letters from Vietnam’ and we read a lot of those letters, so I really liked the idea of hearing the veterans’ voices through the letters,” Becker said. “I thought it would make the program more personal, and students could relate better.”

  She added that she was very pleased with the turnout of the program and pleased with all the hard work students put into it.

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  “I am just so proud of those kids, and I love the fact that my students were willing to put themselves out there and speak in front of so many people,” Becker said. “I was impressed with their willingness to show how important it is to remember our veterans.”

  Becker explained that the main goal of the program was not only to honor veterans, but also help students understand the country’s history so they can realize the sacrifices many have made.

  “The main idea when I teach history to my students is that I want them to understand the relationship that our present has with our past,” Becker said. “I want them to see that we have to study the past to understand where we are today, so I want them to have an appreciation for the men and women who sacrificed for what we have today.”

  WHS Principal Josh Noble said the program’s theme allowed students to see the human side of war. He hopes they realize that the rights and freedoms they have are result from the efforts of veterans.

  “I think it is so important to put a name to those stories and sometimes with the pictures that are used to put a face,” Noble said. “It helps people really reflect on what it might be like if their family member were in that situation. It really personalizes it.”

  Kayla Rodenberg, a senior at WHS, said some letters remind her of the struggles of those who served and that at the end of the day they are not immune to the struggles of war.

  “Some of them were very emotional and some of them showed that they are human, too, and have the same feelings as us,” Rodenberg said.

  One student who stood in the crowded gym and share family anecdotes was 10th-grader Anna Meyer. She said Veterans Day had a particularly special meaning for her family since her grandfather and great-grandfather were both soldiers.  

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  “My grandpa was with me today and he served in Alaska during the Vietnam War,” Meyer said. “My great-grandpa Charles fought mainly in New Guinea and the Philippines.”

  Meyer was not only able to share and educate many of her fellow classmates about the life of two veterans, but said she discovered many things about her family she hadn’t known.

  “I am really glad I could share their stories,” Meyer said. “Ms. Becker gave me the opportunity to write a speech, and I am really glad I did so because because I learned a lot from the veterans in my family and a lot about their stories.”

  Meyer added that she hopes that everybody realizes the importance of recognizing those who fought for the freedoms of the whole country.

  “I think it is important to recognize how lucky we are to live where we do, and they (veterans) are the reason why we have all the freedoms we have,” Meyer said. “They have given so many sacrifices, and I think it is very important for us to honor them always -- not only in Veterans Day.”

  For recent WHS graduate Justin Petersen, who enlisted in the National Guard at 17, Veterans Day is a time to reflect about the sacrifices of veterans.

  “For me it’s more time to reflect and thank those who came before me,” he said, adding that listening to the letters was a meaningful experience for him. “I think that shows the importance in what men went through in the war.”

  He added that he is grateful to be able to serve his country. His first drill with his permanent unit is approaching on Dec. 3.

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  “It’s definitely a great opportunity and I am glad I can give back, and I feel honored to serve in the greatest army in the world,” Petersen said.


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