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December 13, 2017

11/25/2017 7:29:00 AM
JWMS principal reflects on Veterans Day 2017
Richard Gretzinger
JWMS Principal

Veterans Day is a very special day - a day that is important to millions. In Rhinelander, James Williams Middle School (JWMS) has hosted the community's annual Veterans Day program for the past 40-plus years. Veterans of all ages and from all branches of the military are invited to attend this special event so the community can express its gratitude to them for their service. This year, the program was held on Friday, Nov. 10, the day before Veterans Day. It was an event to remember!

Between 8 and 8:30 a.m., JWMS students, staff and volunteers, as well as community members, gathered in the JWMS gymnasium excited for the concert and service that was about to begin. At the start of the program, three veterans formed a line and marched to the front of the audience holding the American flag. Students and community members removed their hats, stood, placed their hands over their hearts and turned to the flag. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited in perfect unison; commencing the start of the ceremony.

JWMS Associate Principal Kyle Raleigh began the celebration with a short introduction about the importance of Veterans Day.  Then, eighth-grade students Kayla Mathison and Ariel Pauer introduced each segment of the program. They also introduced the guest speaker, Matt Berth, who bravely spoke about his time serving in the Army National Guard. Mr. Berth graduated Rhinelander High School in 2000, and enlisted into the Army in 2002. From 2003-2004, he was deployed to Tallil, Iraq.  n 2009, he was deployed to Sharana, Afghanistan where he was seriously injured by an explosive suicide vehicle. He was medically retired in 2012 after being sent to the Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany. Mr. Berth spoke of his reminiscences of his mother's reaction after he told her of his plan to join the Army National Guard, of the moments leading up to his injury, and of another veteran and close friend of his, Sergeant Ryan Adams, who lost his life on Oct. 2, 2009 fighting for our country in Afghanistan.

Students in seventh-and eighth-grade band and choir proudly performed to honor all veterans.

Seventh-grade band students began the ceremony by performing a piece called "Armed Forces on Parade," a medley composed of the anthem from each military branch. Sixth-and eighth-grade band director Adair Sexton announced each segment of the song as it emphasized the branch of the military being represented. Any veteran who fought in that branch proudly stood up from their seat to be recognized.

Seventh- and eighth-grade choir students sang "Thank You, Soldiers" by Michael and Angela Sounders, and shortly after performed an audience favorite, "O, America" by Brendan Graham and William Joseph.

The eighth-grade band performed the national anthem, and a piece entitled "For Our Heroes" by Alan Lee Silva. At the end of the program, the eighth- grade trumpet section finished the celebration by performing "Taps." Thank you to music teachers Desiree Wattelet, Adair Sexton and Connie Piasecki for conducting the band and choir students.

Concluding the ceremony, veterans had the opportunity to gather in the commons area to enjoy pumpkin bars and coffee, which were catered by staff member Randi Miller's second hour Family and Consumer Science class. While relaxing, they sat at tables and read letters written by district students that thanked the veterans for what they have given for our country.

JWMS staff and students are honored to be able to host this important and well-received ceremony each year. It is truly special to be given the opportunity to unite veterans and listen and converse together about their experiences, to enjoy the student performances, and to indulge in the concessions. We hope to see everyone again next year!

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