Veterans thanked during Worthington High School Veterans Day program
U.S. Army veteran and WHS gymnastics fan Roger Geertsema was the honored guest, and the WHS band, orchestra and choir provided music for the event.
WORTHINGTON — Community members filled the Worthington High School gym Thursday morning for a Veterans Day program celebrating area men and women who served their country. High school students provided music and readings in remembrance of both the living and the dead.
The honored guest was U.S. Army veteran, former Globe sports writer and WHS Trojan gymnastics superfan Roger Geertsema.
Geertsema, born in Lake Park, Iowa, in 1944, graduated from Round Lake High School in 1962 and attended Worthington Junior College. He enlisted in the army at age 18 on the spur of the moment, and went to Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas for basic training, including learning to use a grenade launcher. His service was during the Cold War, and he was stationed at Guantanamo Bay during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
“Many people feared the world was on the brink of nuclear war,” one of the students said, as the team worked together to give context to Geertsema’s service, which continued during the Vietnam War.
After his military service, Geertsema became a sports reporter for the Globe, and fell in love with gymnastics after being asked to cover it one time, learning its ins and outs quickly. After retiring, he has become widely known for his dedicated support of the WHS gymnasts, helping out with practices, traveling to meets and tracking scores.
“We salute you, and thank you,” one of the gymnasts said.
What is a hero?
“To be a hero is to give one’s service to one’s country,” said Levi Kuhl, a senior at WHS, as he gave a brief speech about what heroism means.
Kuhl referred to the bombing of the Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 26, which claimed the lives of 13 American service members as well as at least 60 Afghani people, many of whom were trying to escape Afghanistan as the U.S. military prepared to depart. Kuhl praised the service members for their work protecting others, as well as those who had fallen in the line of duty.
Grace McGaughey, WHS junior, asked the same question when she spoke, recognizing her uncle, a veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“My uncle is the most selfless person I know,” she said, emphasizing how heroes make sacrifices for others. She noted some of the hazards of serving, such as PTSD, and the importance of doing what is right.
Both students thanked veterans for their efforts.
In another presentation, students took turns asking the question “What is a hero?” in many languages, including Spanish, Norwegian and German, as well as Tigrinya, Japanese, Amharic and others, and gave a variety of answers to the question.
The Worthington Concert Choir sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Who Are the Brave,” and the Worthington High School Orchestra played “Turning Point.”
As the Worthington High School Concert Band played all the marches of the armed forces in a medley, members of each branch of the service stood as the crowd applauded their efforts. Veterans of the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy had the most representation, but U.S. Marines and the U.S. Air Force were also represented, along with at least one member of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Abigail Bristow played “Taps,” and as the Honor Guard presented the flag, the veterans in the audience, young and old, saluted.