By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Patton assembly honors veterans

Patton Middle School sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders said thanks to the people who’ve served their country in the military at the school’s eighth-annual Veterans Day assembly Wednesday.

Front-row seats were filled with veterans from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War era, the Vietnam War and more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus those who served in peacetime.

As they introduced themselves, many of the veterans thanked the students in return, saying they really appreciate being recognized. “I thought my heart would break when I came in and saw so many honoring us,” said veteran Israel Allen.

Like some of the other participants, Allen has two granddaughters at Patton. And some, like WWII veteran Bob Abrahamson, had other relationships to the building — he taught at the school for 20 years before retiring.

They were joined by veterans from the community, including WWII vet Vic Banke, American Legion members Juan Palacios and Mike Morris, and county veterans’ services officer Jerry Wilson. Also honored were four current members of the staff: Assistant Principal Deborah Hilfiker, an Army vet; custodian Gary Spath, who was in the Air Force; teacher Emily Clark, who served in the Coast Guard and teacher and Army vet Scott Phoenix, organizer of the Veterans Day event.

Patton’s band and choir performed at the assembly. McMinnville High School’s Symphonic Choir also performed, singing the Civil War era ballad “Shenandoah” and a rousing, vocal version of John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” march.

“Wave on forever, the red and white and blue!” the rarely-heard lyrics begin. “Hurrah for the flag of the free! May it wave as our standard forever.”

Student speakers Emily DeYoung, Michael Martinoff and Megan DeYoung talked about the military’s role in peacetime and in all the conflicts throughout the country’s history.

The Patton gym was decorated with banners on which students had written messages of support for veterans. A special painting by student Juan Bautista graced the podium.

After the assembly, veterans were treated to refreshments in the school library.

Before that, though, eighth-grader Nickole Carroll hugged her grandfather, Vietnam vet Kenneth Wilson.

“I’m glad he’s here,” the student said, indicating both here at the assembly and here in her life. “He could easily not have been.”

Wilson wore a jacket covered with military patches, including those from his service in the Marines.

He was a communications officer in charge of seeing that his company and three others had the supplies they needed. He also called in helicopters to evacuate the wounded.

He removed his jacket off so he could show Nickole some of his special patches, such as one resembling a cigarette lighter, representing the 81st Mortar Platoon.

“The gunnery sergeant gave each of us a cigarette lighter, and I still have that, too,” he said. “It’s real special to me.”



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