An important program to principal Dr. Chad Sayre, the district again invited local military veterans to the school for an afternoon program, honoring them with music, guest speakers and ceremonies. The event continued to take on added significance due to the large number of students in military families, partially due to Fort Leavenworth’s location just across the Missouri-Kansas border.
“This entire event is about you, all of you here today,” Sayre said in addressing the dozens of retired and active military servicemen and servicewomen in attendance. “Our efforts can not begin to demonstrate how much you mean to our school, our community, our country and many of the people here in the room today. We honor you.”
Jason Brown, a staff sergeant with the U.S. Army Reserves and former presiding commissioner of Platte County (2011-2014), delivered the key note address. A decorated veteran, he relayed the story of a middle aged man serving in a war zone who was told he couldn’t be a part of a mission due to lack of experience, ostensibly about himself.
Instead, the man ended up being allowed as the last person on a convoy of Humvees in October of 2006.
Brown ended up wounded on that mission, and the man applied first aid, helping to save Brown’s life. The two men remain in contact to this day, linked together by the events of that day. With visible emotion, Brown recounted in detail the events of that day and how the man almost not allowed on the mission located his wound and shoved gauze into the hole on the left side of his chest.
Brown had been the one trying to keep the man off of the mission that day.
“That fateful day started out like most. It was hot; it was dirty and tiring,” said Brown, deployed overseas twice and recipient of a Combat Action Badge, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. “Later that afternoon when the first shot and the explosion rocked the vehicle that I was in and knocked me down to my knees, I got back up, manned the gun at the turret and secured the rear sector fire I was responsible for.
“That occurred in a matter of seconds. Obviously, I lived. I’m here today. … He ended up in my vehicle. That’s how I get to stand here today.”
Brown then encouraged the students that this country also belongs to them and their actions will help determine the future of the nation. That starts by recognizing the service of others and embracing the responsibilities associated with being an American.
“All veterans past and present have helped shape this nation,” he said. “The challenges and opportunities that exist now are because of those that have gone before us and the sacrifices they have made. So to the students sitting here today: what advantages will you take from the sacrifice of others? Will you be a part of something larger? Will you give back? Will you participate? Will you hold one another accountable for your actions?
“Don’t squander what so many have sacrificed for.”
Sayre also helped involve students of military families with Helena Dabney reading an original poem about her experience in a military family while Mark Calhoun gave a speech in honor of his father — retired Lt. Col. Mark Calhoun, a distinguished serviceman in attendance. He also acknowledged the difficulty military students face.
In the past year, Platte County has started a group designed for students in military families to provide them with an outlet to share experiences and organize activities.
“At this time, I would like to honor a group of people often overlooked during this special day for veterans: the family,” Mark Calhoun said. “A lot of people comment on the maturity of kids like me. We are typically responsible and respectable, but we are not without our own unique set of struggles. From frequent moves to parent deployment to helping hold our families together in times of need, we too are on the front lines.”
The Platte County High School band also performed, including Gavin Schmidt and Kevin Wanner’s rendition of “Taps” and the Ryan Lett’s playing of “Amazing Grace.” Sayre included the traditional Memorial Day songs as part of the military education for the students at the assembly.
Those were played following Lt. Col. Candy S. Smith of Platte City’s Prisoner of War/Missing in Action remembrance ceremony. She performed the solemn ceremony for a second straight year.