Platte County High School students crammed into the gymnasium on Monday, Nov. 12 to hear retired Lt. Col. Jasper ‘Jak’ Pennington talk military life.
Pennington talked about the importance of Veteran’s Day and how it originated from World War I. A quiet and attentive crowd listened to him retell the story about the 11th hour on the 11th day that led to the armistice to end WWI.
Pennington talked briefly about his 25 years in service and held in his hand a green booklet. Inside was a card dated Dec. 7, 2003, sent to him by his wife while he was stationed in Iraq.
There were 139 total cards sent to Pennington in Iraq, each one hand written and later passed out to the 132 soldiers under his command. With a couple of cookies, Pennington played ‘Santa’ passing out the cards to the troops who was away from their families during the holidays.
The card for Pennington, as he read, reminded him how much he was loved and missed.
“As a soldier, I was selfish,” he said. “I knew what I was getting into, especially being a second-generation soldier and my first memory of my dad was when he came from Vietnam. I knew it was getting into, but my family didn’t know that. I went into the danger and the danger came to them. I was forcing them to experience it whether they wanted to or not. They shouldered it. They shouldered it like many of you do. We know you are stressed and the underlining anxiety, even though the military is far away and the burdens are far away. When we get done and we come together we remember to breathe. Breathe that sigh of freedom that only you can get here in the United States. No other country gives you the freedom and opportunity this one does and I’ve been to almost everywhere.”
The Platte County Concert Band performed the ‘Armed Forces Salute’ and veterans were asked to stand up to be recognized when they heard the song from their respective branch.
Seniors Jake Havemeier and Josh McKeague played taps and senior Ryan Lett performed ‘Amazing Grace’ on a bagpipe.
The ceremony also featured seniors Logan Bannister (U.S. Navy) and Alex Beall (U.S. Marines) who were called forward to join petty officer Travis Adams in an enlisting ceremony in front of their classmates.
Principal Dr. Chad Sayre told those in the crowd that “everything we do here is because people sacrificed for us. This does not come free.”