Veterans honored at Cape Hatteras Secondary ceremony

Published 2:16 pm Saturday, November 11, 2023

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In Cape Hatteras Secondary’s gymnasium, United States veterans walked in for a ceremony before all the students at the Hatteras Island school for grades six through 12.

The ceremony was celebratory, patriotic and solemn.

A United States Coast Guard four-member team presented the United States and Coast Guard flags flawlessly.

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The Pledge of Allegiance was led by five students with siblings in a branch of the Armed Forces: Gabby Baker, Noah Baker, Janie Cartwright, Tyler Midgette and Andree Ortega.

The award-winning Cape Hatteras Secondary band played the National Anthem. The band would return twice more.

After a brief welcome, high school teacher and coach Keith Durham welcomed veterans, students and others.

Band director Sean McCroskey led the music students in a medley of individual armed forces songs and asked that those associated with the individual units to stand. An estimated total of 36 veterans stood. The presentation finished with America the Beautiful.

Combat veterans were recognized next as teacher and coach Ian O’Neal called out armed combat instances and told those combat veterans “we are eternally gratefully for what you did.”

Brittany Barnett rose and introduced a presentation about Cape Hatteras Secondary graduates currently serving in the armed forces. Graduation and military photos of each student flashed by. Places where the students served where shown. Attendees listened to “Freedom Doesn’t Come For Free” and “Proud to be an American.”

Teacher Jessica Polk talked about her grandfather, who was trained in the very first special forces unit. In 1961, some military men showed up at her family’s home and packed up her father’s things. They said nothing. Later, she learned that her grandfather was in a submarine off the coast of Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion.

She asked students in the stands to rise up if a parent was serving. A few did. She went down a list. Finally, she asked for all students who knew people who had served or were serving. “Almost all of you are standing,” she said.

District Attorney Jeff Cruden was introduced by Durham. Cruden’s father was in the military. The family moved around a lot. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1989. He learned to make his bed really well. He discovered that was the Navy’s way of teaching detail.

He saw the world. His first cruise was to the Mediterranean. He was heading to Istanbul when the Oct. 23, 1983 Beirut, Lebanon, barracks bombing occurred. His vessel set sail immediately for Lebanon. The GI bill helped with his education.

He told the students, “true heroes are the ones that didn’t come back.”

Cruden, as district attorney, issued a public service announcement. He said he has “zero tolerance” for drunk drivers.

Durham, at the beginning of the ceremony and after Cruden spoke, talked about The Wall That Heals, the three-quarter replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. That monument has over 58,000 names. Durham said 33,000 of those names were people 18 years of age.

The ceremony concluded with a reading of names of those veterans who have died since the last Veterans Day program at the school. After each name, a bell was sounded. The 15 men who have died are Gary Shane Austin (U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard); Stanley “Stan” Luther Davis (U.S. Marine Corps); Kenneth H. Dickerson (U.S. Air Force), Belton Boyce Gray Sr. (U.S. Coast Guard); Robert “Bobby” Max Gray (U.S. Coast Guard); Oley Grayson Hooper (U.S. Coast Guard); Wayland Ward Jennette (U.S. Coast Guard); David James Kelmer (U.S. Marine Corps); Robert “Bob” Burton Keys Jr. (U.S. Army); William M. Peele; John Anthony Pieno (U.S. Navy); Gordon Murray Pinckney (U.S. Army); William Phillip Vancura (U.S. Army); John Lynch Williams Sr. (U.S. Coast Guard); and Talmage Manning Willis Sr. (U.S. Coast Guard).

“Taps” was played by Abby O’Neal and Cate Parker.

“Amazing Grace” was played by the entire band. Durham issued sincere thanks to the veterans which was followed by applause from students.

Then John Ochs approached the podium and made heartfelt comments.

And the band played.

Before the ceremony in the gymnasium, the veterans along with family members were treated to breakfast prepared by Foods I class, cooked in the school’s cafeteria and served by students.

DECA participants offered hospitality to those arriving. In all, about 30 students participated in the breakfast event, including those who were assigned to clean up.