"It's great to be here," said Jared. "I came last year too and wouldn't miss it this year."
All three gathered around their grandfather who served in the U.S. Army and has regularly attended the TKHS Veterans Day assembly.
This was the sixth year of the event that brings the community and school together in a special event to honor veterans of all branches of service. Friday, 70 veterans found their seats of honor on the gym floor looking up at the bleachers filled with students and community members. Whether it was a few years ago in Iraq or Afghanistan or all the way back to World War II, the names of each veteran attending the ceremony were read and each individual recognized. Some stood in uniform, others waved from their seat. After all the names were read, the crowd gave all the veterans a standing ovation - one of not less than five standing ovations throughout the hour-long program.
Two honored veterans shared center stage during the ceremony. Middleville's Village Council President Charlie Pullen and Hastings Mayor Frank Campbell are examples of how their service to their country continues even today with service to their communities.
Pullen is the honored local veteran who will be honored in the 2017 Middleville Memorial Day parade. Pullen was drafted into the Army shortly after graduating high school and he's been working with veterans' groups since 1969 making sure all veterans receive the benefits and help they need.
“No veteran should ever live alone. No veteran should ever die alone. And no veteran should ever be forgotten,” he said choking back his emotions.
Campbell also talked to the students and community members gathered saying he wasn't a hero, but he knew six people who were heroes. He briefly described each of his six heroes and when and where they served.
“One of those was my dad,” Campbell said pausing and fighting back emotions before continuing. “And the other five were my uncles.”
He said his family has a new generation of veterans including himself, his brother and now a grandson who have all served.
He thanked each of the veterans attending the special program saying he was proud and honored to see so many who had answered the call of the country.
Campbell, whose wife is a TK graduate, served in the Army from 1959 to 1961 and has served in his community in many different roles including mayor.
TKHS students presented special readings to honor veterans. Sarah Possett introduced the day's events and thanked everyone for attending. Kasee Snowden read "What Veterans Day Means to Me," and Stephanie Pitsch told about the significance of the empty MIA POW table set up beside the speakers' podium. Jenna Walters read "Remember," and Kameron McLaughlin read "The Bravest Man I Know." Brady Zellmer read "Because of You, Unknown Soldier," and Aaron Czarnecki, Gordon Hayward, Rachel Ranes and high school teacher Lyndsey Fischer talked about their experience attending the Armed Forces Thanksgiving in Grand Rapids.
The Thornapple Kellogg High School band played "Armed Forces on Parade," and "Gallant Marines." And the honors choir sang "America," and "We Honor You."