The program was presented in the school’s gymnasium and the students packed the building, far outnumbering the veterans who attended the annual event.
That was the intent of the changes made more than 20 years ago in the way Carter County commemorated Veterans Day. The Master of Ceremonies, retired First Sgt. David Batchelder, said World War II veterans Wright Swanay and Sonny Mottern were responsible for the idea.
That idea was to remove the Veterans Day program from the public spaces in the middle of the day, when mostly other retired veterans could attend. They were already very familiar with the reason for Veterans Day.
Instead, Swanay and Mottern and their allies urged the observance to be marked in high schools, where students could learn more about the holiday and why it is important. Because there are four high schools in Carter County and one city high school, the program can be rotated among the high schools so that every high school student in the county or city can see the observance once during their high school years.
While the ceremonies don’t change much over the years, except for younger veterans replacing the older veterans, the presentation remains fresh for the target audience, the next generation, which may not know much about veterans and Veterans Day.
One other advantage to the arrangement is that some of the students get to participate with the veterans in presenting the show. For instance, the Unaka High School Band was assigned to present a medley of the Armed Forces’ songs and student vocalist Abby Williams gave a superb presentation of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Logan Fulton led the Pledge of Allegiance. and Travis Day played taps. They were balanced by presentations by veterans, including Billy Peters reciting “In Flanders Field,” the Missing Man Table Ceremony led by Frank Murray, and the Carter County Honor Guard performing the Flag Folding Ceremony.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer Randy Lingerfelt gave the Veterans Day speech, and he urged the students to remember the sacrifices made veterans to allow the students to have freedom and liberty.