The license plate on Rose Catan’s truck reads “Vietnam Veteran” and although many people think it belongs to her husband, she quickly sets them straight. She served in Vietnam after enlisting in the Marines 1973 immediately after graduation from Thornapple Kellogg High School.
She is the first woman named as the Middleville honored veteran of the year and she told the crowd gathered at Thornapple Kellogg’s annual Veterans Day program she was honored and humbled by the recognition.
Speaking before the entire high school student body, about 64 veterans who attended and several community members, Catan said a veteran isn’t just someone who has served their country. Instead, she said a veteran is more like someone who is willing to write a blank check for their country good for “up to and including their own life.”
She also told the guests it was not traditional for a woman to enlist in those years and she was often looked upon differently because of it. “People are a little shocked,” she said when they learn she served in Vietnam. “It wasn’t what women did back then. But women have more opportunities now to be whatever they want to be.”
She said she was proud to be the first female honored veteran for Middleville and especially proud on Friday to honor the Marines on their 242nd birthday.
Thornapple Kellogg High School students and community guests gave Catan a standing ovation after her remarks and were equally appreciative as the roll of veterans was called.
One-by-one, veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam to more modern day struggles in Afghanistan and Iraq stood as their names and military service was called at the seventh annual community event.
The high school symphonic band played patriotic selections “Midway March” and “Call to Victory” and the honors choir sang “America” and “Because of the Brave.” Students from the advanced placement history class gave readings and tributes to veterans. Those students included Josie Thompson, Evelyn Harris, Anna Kaminski, Charlee Hamming, and Ashton Hieser. Boy Scouts Maison Simmons and Quinton Rader from Middleville Troop 105 showed proper technique for folding the American flag.
Maybe most significant this year was high school teacher Lance Laker’s inspired telling of the history of “The Star Spangled Banner” written by Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British in September 1814.
While everyone knows the words to the song that became our country’s anthem in 1931, he asked them to really think about them as he read them.
“The last line is actually a question,” said Laker. “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
But he told guests what many don’t know are the remaining three verses of the Star Spangled Banner and the last line of the last verse answering that very question. “And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
High School principal Tony Petersen told students to learn from the veterans, take time to thank them, and understand the sacrifices they made for the country.
“Freedom is never free,” Petersen said. “They (veterans) are the backbone of our community.”