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Roan Mountain observes Veterans Day early

John Thompson • Updated Nov 10, 2018 at 12:42 AM

ROAN MOUNTAIN — Veterans Day came early to Roan Mountain.

Every year, the United Veterans Council travels to one of the five high schools in Carter County and Elizabethton to hold its annual Veterans Day observance. This year it was Cloudland High School’s turn.

The observances are held in high school gymnasiums because members of the Veterans Council decided a couple of decades ago to make sure the next generation learned about the sacrifices the county’s veterans had made. They also hoped the students would see the pride that veterans had in recalling their service.

That two-decade-old focus on youth certainly worked on Friday, as the students showed great attention and respect for the ceremonies and the sentiments expressed about the sacrifice veterans have made for the nation.

Some speakers and others involved with the program went off script to compliment the students on the attention they gave.

Some of the students were even a part of the program. The high school’s small but talented band performed a medley of the armed forces marches, and two other students, Gracie Freeman and Ambrien Blair, led the Pledge of Allegiance.

The guest speaker of this year’s event was Chief Warrant Officer Jim Dubose, who was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Others who participated in the ceremony were First Sgt. David Batchelder, who was master of ceremonies, and Chief Warrant Officer Randy Lingerfelt, who performed the “Missing Man Table Ceremony” for the students.

Because Sunday is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, that struggle was not forgotten. Billy Peters of the American Legion recited the poem “Flanders Field” for the students.

Batchelder had one somber note on the passing of time. During the introductory remarks at each Veterans Day ceremony, he has always asked veterans of World War II and Korea to stand and be recognized. He said Friday’s event was the first one where no World War II or Korean War veterans were present.

But Batchelder carried his greetings to World War II and Korean War veterans who are residents of The Waters of Roan Highlands.

He brought more than greetings. Members of the Boys and Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County had been learning about the service that veterans have performed to protect their freedom. To thank them for that service, members of the club colored greeting cards wishing them a happy Veterans Day. Batchelder presented these cards along with a small American flag to each veteran living in the facility.

Two of these veterans, Willile Guinn, a veteran of the Korean War, and Keith “Doc” Vandenbrink, a combat surgeon with the 3rd Marine Division in Vietnam, have found a way to keep the community reminded off those who are still unaccounted for. They recently purchased a POW-MIA flag and hope to fly it from the facility’s flagpole.

Carter County will continue to observe Veterans Day for the next two days. On Sunday, the Overmountain Men and all veterans will be honored at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park at 2 p.m. in the amphitheater behind Fort Watauga.

The United Veterans Council will also hold a ceremony at Elizabethton High School on Monday at 9:30 a.m. This event will be similar to the one held at Cloudland on Friday.

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