EASTON — Easton High School NJROTC commemorated Veterans Day and the centennial of the World War I armistice this week as local veterans and service members were honored.
The Town of Easton, EHS Navy JROTC, VFW Post 5118, American Legion Posts 70 and 77, and the Easton Downtown Partnership sponsored the first ceremony Tuesday evening. American Legion Post 70 Commander Lee Young was the guest speaker.
The Easton Middle School band began the event, playing “The Thunderer,” as they marched into the Talbot County Auditorium at Easton High.
Young served 11 years in the U.S. Army, including a one-year tour in Vietnam. He also is a member of VFW Post 5118 and the Vietnam Veterans of America.
After offering history about World War I and the formation of the American Legion, Young voiced concerns about some Americans’ ambivalence in showing patriotism.
“Take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate our veterans more than twice a year,” he said. “When we do it, let’s proclaim it loud and clear.”
Young suggested using social media platforms to spread patriotism and spark positive change among others. He also advised educating children about patriotism and Americanism to get them more involved.
“At one point, (a veteran) wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount up to and equal to his or her life. That is an honor,” Young said. “There are way too many people in this country today who no longer understand that fact.”
“Let’s work together to change that.”
After Young spoke, VFW Post 5118 Commander Kenley Timms, presented L. Commander Jon Hammond and Cadet Karli Abbott of the NJROTC with certificates recognizing their support of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall in Easton.
Timms also announced the Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition winner — St. Michaels High senior Lydia Shreves.
Shreves recited her winning essay, which went on to say, while Americans all have different vows and responsibilities, we are united by our vow to vote.
The student body of EHS observed a similar program Wednesday morning, with U.S. Navy Captain Ann Stencil, retired, as guest speaker. Stencil graduated from EHS in 1976, and later from the United States Naval Academy in 1980, the first class to integrate women.
Stencil told her audience that, not too long ago, girls were not allowed to wear blue jeans to school.
“Until someone brave enough to stood up, which is why we don’t think too much about wearing jeans to school nowadays,” she said. “It’s similar with military service; those who have gone before us, they are why we don’t have to think very much about our simple liberties.”
She asked the audience to raise a hand if family members had served in any war, and upon seeing the majority of raised hands, said, “we’re all connected by service.”
Stencil informed the largely student-based crowd that information from their drivers licenses can be collected in the case of a possible draft, noting that students likely never look at their licenses the same way.
She also said that there have been 27 conflicts since Vietnam with an all-volunteer service, and that six are occurring right now.
“Be especially grateful of your fellow Americans who volunteer for service, especially when you think about what’s going on in the world today,” she said.
For both observances, Cadet LCDR Jeremiah Gardner, commanding officer of EHS NJROTC Unit, served as the emcee. He recited “It Is the Soldier,” and Cadet Seph Feldman then offered a historical background of Veterans Day.
“A veteran is an ordinary person and yet, an extraordinary human being — a person who offered some of his or her life’s most vital years in the service of their country, and who sacrificed his or her ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs,” Feldman said.
“A veteran is a soldier and a savior, a sword against the darkness.”
Veterans and military in the audience were recognized, and stood during the playing of their appropriate service song.
A representative active duty member and veteran from each of the armed forces was honored on stage.
On Nov. 13, U.S. Army and National Guard was represented by World War II, Korean and Vietnam veteran Major General Andy Anderson and Major Jeff Eutsler were honored first.
The U.S. Navy and Merchant Marine was represented by WWII veteran Henry Seeba. U.S. Marine Corps was represented by Korean War veteran Herb Seeba and Sergeant Sarah Royer of Easton. U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard was represented by WWII veteran Howard Zwemer. U.S. Coast Guard was represented by Gene Daisy and a fireman from Destin, Fla.
For the Nov. 14 observance, Jeff Payne represented the U.S. Army; Coach Mackey for the U.S. Marine Corps; OS1 James Gardner and Mike Moaney for the U.S. Navy; no representative was present for the U.S. Air Force; and Lt. Commander Jon Hammond represented the U.S. Coast Guard.
For both ceremonies, Cadet Karli Abbott recounted the history behind the centennial of the ending of WWI.
“Over 60,000 Marylanders fought in the war, over 2,000 died in it,” Abbott said. “11 Talbot County men were among those who lost their lives in the war: Corporal Allen Stelle; Private Nelson Blake; Private Rodney Spring; Private William Adams; Private William Carrol; Private Robert Cook; Private Raymond Harden; Private Perry Larrimore; Private Martin Marvel; Private Herman Potter; Petty Officer Frederick Wilson.”
The EMS choir performed “Over There,” and Abbott then provided historical background for the “In Flanders Field” poem, recited on stage, by memory, by Cadet Cole Paradine.
Poppies were distributed to audience members after the ceremony.
Cadet Benson Hawley led the Table of Honor ceremony, explaining the significance of each item on the table, like the white tablecloth, single red flower, lemon slice, and pinch of salt, among others.
Two cadets then placed a wreath on stage, and a moment of silence was observed in honor and memory of departed and missing heroes.
EHS band performed a Navy hymn, and after the ceremony, taps rang out. The chamber choir then performed “Because of the Brave.”
The NJROTC Exhibition Drill Team performed and Cadet Romell Denessen recited, “The Watch.”
The EHS band was under direction of Bri’Yahn Ritchie; Donna Ewing led the EMS band; Eve Van Horn led the EHS Warrior Chorale; CJ Henry led the EMS choir.