By Dawn Hatfield
ARCANUM — Veterans Day was an especially memorable school day for the students, staff, and local veterans of Arcanum this year. At 1:30 p.m. in the high school gymnasium, the Arcanum-Butler School District hosted a lovely ceremony to honor veterans and teach students the importance of this day, originally known as Armistice Day. Principal Jason Stephan began the assembly with a moving speech about the history of this holiday and expressed the collective gratitude of all in attendance and across the nation toward our veterans’ service and sacrifice.
Speaking of veterans, Stephan said, “They stepped up to the challenge; they paid the price in blood, sweat, and tears. Their bravery, dedication, and courage are astounding.” Stephan went on to accentuate the importance of the chosen day for this remembrance, “We observe Veterans Day on the anniversary, not of a great battle or the beginning of a war, but on a day when war ended and our nation was again at peace. Ever since the armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, this has been a day to remember our debt to all who have worn the uniform of the United States. Our veterans have borne the cost of America’s wars and have stood watch over America’s peace. Today, every veteran can be certain the nation you serve and the people you defended are grateful.”
The Pledge of Allegiance was then led by Brennen Troutwine where uniformed scouts joined him to salute the nation’s flag. “Star-Spangled Banner” rang out in a stellar performance by the high school band, and the middle and high school choir performed a stunning rendition of “God Bless America.” Mr. Hootman then introduced the winners of the writing contests where the audience was treated to poetry and essays by very talented young Arcanum writers.
Mr. Stanley had the honor of introducing the veteran guest speaker, Ret. Lieutenant Colonel Rick White, father of an Arcanum High School alum. “Rick White enlisted in Army in 1972. Initially, he was to deploy to Vietnam, but he received last-minute orders that sent him instead to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, where he served as squad leader for a unit responsible for procurement and delivery of repair parts for the 4th Armoured Cavalry Regiment and 25th Combat Aviation Brigade. White finished as a Specialist 5, a rank no longer used,” Stanley said.
In 2001, White became a Second Lieutenant in the Ohio Military Reserve (OHMR) where he served for 18 years. Stanley explained, “Few people know about the Ohio Military Reserve; in fact, those who have served within its ranks often call it Ohio’s best kept secret.” According to their website, the Ohio Military Reserve provides an organized, trained, disciplined force to assist state and local government agencies and coordinate with civil relief organizations in impending or actual emergencies to assure the welfare and safety of the citizens of Ohio. In addition, the Ohio Military Reserve also supports the activities of the Ohio National Guard when directed. In August 2019, OHMR was deployed to aid in the tornado cleanup in Dayton at the request of the governor.
Ret. Lieutenant Colonel White, then took the stage, “On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the fighting of World War I ended in 1918… , so today is a day of celebration. Today we honor all our veterans who unselfishly placed their lives on hold and put their lives on the line for our freedom. One definition of ‘veteran’ that I particularly like is, ‘… someone who at one point in their life wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to and including their life.’ These men and women were ordinary people until they heard a call of duty and answered it. They left their families; they left their homes; they left their lives, not for recognition and fame nor for the honor we bestow on them today; they served to protect our country and maintain our way of life.”
White went on to speak, not about his own service and sacrifice, but about the veteran whose story inspired and influenced him during his 12th-grade government class at Lebanon High School. Gordon Roberts, a Lebanon High School alum, was also a retired United States Army officer and Medal of Honor recipient for his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” on July 11, 1969, while an infantryman with the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War. White’s respect for Roberts’s bravery and sacrifice was very evident, “On that fateful day… Sergeant Roberts single-handedly took out four enemy firing positions with his rifle and grenades. Although continually exposed to hostile fire, he insisted on moving wounded persons off exposed positions on the hilltop to an evacuation area before returning to his unit. I remember Gordon Roberts as humble, selfless individual.”
For the courageous stories like that of Sergeant Roberts and for the dedication of service members like Ret. Lieutenant Colonel White who equip and enable military success, a moment of silence was taken in remembrance and honor. Thirteen empty chairs, each containing a single pink rose, were visual representations of the 13 fallen service members who recently gave their lives in the Kabul suicide bombing on Aug. 26 of this year. “Taps” was then beautifully played by Karter McCready in her trumpet solo.
Superintendent John Stephens then gave a Purple Heart School proclamation to end the ceremony, sharing his hope that the Arcanum-Butler School district will soon receive this distinguished honor. “The courage and bravery of our fallen soldiers is unparalleled, to give of themselves so that we could be free,” Stephens concluded.
Dawn Hatfield covers education stories for The Daily Advocate. Have a school-related event to share? Reach out by email at [email protected] or by phone at 937-569-0066.