It was the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month that all guns fell silent.
World War I, also known as “The Great War,” ended on Nov. 11, 1918. It became an anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended hostilities between the Allied Nations and Germany. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance and in 1938, November 11, it became a National Holiday. It became Armistice Day, now observed as Veterans Day since 1954.
Juniata Valley School District has held innumerable Veterans Day assemblies and luncheons. Special education teachers Karen Beck and Dan Waite planned the event this year, taking over the duties previously held by Jen Murray. The luncheon began at 1:45 p.m. where 22 veterans attended, along with their friends and families.
At the luncheon there was there was a hot ham pot pie, a tossed salad, buttery bread, a mouth-watering pumpkin log and refreshing strawberry pretzel salad. William Emery, who graduated from JV last year and who is currently active in the United States Army commented: “The food was delicious, and I really enjoyed the meal provided by Karen Beck.”
As the group ate, they shared stories with each another. Gene Jenkins, who was enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Paratroopers, recalled the first time he jumped out of an airplane at night: “I couldn’t see anything, it was like you were jumping into nothingness.”
Bill Grubb, who enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, and his wife, Carol, spoke about an item that was brought home after serving. Carol Grubb explained: “It was a lighter with a saying engraved into it. It said, ‘you have never lived until you almost died.’ The phrase just gives you chills.”
Soon after the luncheon, the veterans paraded through the high school halls. Students from the Valley lined up on both sides of the halls throughout the school to give a round of applause to commemorate them all as they passed by.
As the veterans were seated on stage in the auditorium for the assembly, they were greeted by students and teachers from the elementary and high school. The assembly commenced with the posting of the colors presented by the Alexandria American Legion. Sophomore Reese Zurybida read an informational reading about the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance.
The National Anthem was sung by the JV chorus which was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Sophomore student Olivia Shaffer read a veteran’s poem followed by the JV band performing ‘God Bless America.’ A history of Veterans Day speech written and read by freshman student Makayla Moskel was next on the agenda, accompanied by an introduction to the guest speaker by elementary principal, Dr. Jessica Quinter.
The guest speaker for the occasion was Dr. Peter Reiley. “Dr. Peter Reiley currently serves as director of operations and associate professor of behavioral sciences and leadership at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado,” explained Quinter. “Dr. Riley entered military service in 1997 and has extensive leadership experience across the Department of Defense leading blended teams of military personnel, government civilians and contractors from Fortune 500 companies.”
Reiley is also the co-founder and vice chairman of the board of directors for the foundation for veteran employment and transition support, which is a national nonprofit public charity supporting military veterans and their families through employment research and evidence-based practices. He was recently recognized at the U.S. Air Force Academy for being 2019’s outstanding academic educator, the institutions highest teaching honor.
Reiley’s message with this speech was for people to thank those who served and who are serving today. He mentioned: “We need to understand the people to know the people.” His speech certainly left an impact. “I enjoyed listening to Dr. Reiley’s wise words as he put himself back in high school and took us on his journey to where he is now,” commented Beck. “I think it was a valuable way for students to understand the importance of the military and essentially, becoming heroes known as Veterans!”
The assembly continued with the first grade classes from the elementary school singing a song titled, ‘American Soldier’ and senior Darian Gummo then delivered a speech that she wrote. Before the traditional slideshow, high school principal Michael Estep then came foward and asked for the Veterans seated on the stage to introduce themselves.
Lynn Chesney White, who was a 1973 graduate of Juniata Valley, entered the U.S. Army after the Vietnam War. She served in Alabama, Virginia, Maryland and South Carolina. She spent three years in Germany with the 8th Infantry Division and one of the proudest things for her time and service was that she was in the first group of women ever active in 1982. She was part of the 2nd Infantry Division serving on the Demilitarized Zone in Korea.
Caleb Wagner, a 2014 graduate, currently active in the United States Army and part of the Military Police. “We do all the cool stuff,” commented Wagner. He also encouraged others to enlist.
As the slideshow of veterans played showcasing all the friends, family and loved ones who served and are currently serving today, students and staff were able to take the time and reflect on what the day’s events really meant. Senior Rachel Brubaker then delivered a speech which was followed by the retiring of the colors, carried out by the Alexandria American Legion, and the playing of Taps, performed by junior Cole Funk.
“The Veterans Day assembly is an outstanding and honorable event,” commented Estep. “The event shows respect for all veterans. The fact that all JVSD students participate allows all students from the youngest to the oldest to show our veterans that their service to this great nation is greatly appreciated. All of the freedoms that we have as a” free” people are given to us through the sacrifice of our service men and women. For that, we thank them all.”