Local veterans recognized at schools
NOTE: More photos from Veterans Day events at local schools may be found at http://www.cassville-democrat.com/gallery/28694
Flags, certificates, cards presented to America's heroes
Every year, area school districts on Veterans Day hold assemblies, inviting local veterans to attend and be honored for their sacrifices and service to the United States of America.
For many of the veterans, it's difficult to put into words how special and important such events are, especially for those who are specially recognized in the form of a flag presentation.
At Cassville High School, U.S. Army veteran Ted Bolton received such a tribute. While his family was on hand and knew about the plan, Bolton was unaware he would receive a flag.
"I was shocked, and it was very emotional," he said. "We used to come to [the Veterans Day ceremony at Cassville High School] every year, and my family really encouraged me to come this year."
Born in the Oak Ridge community in 1946, Bolton graduated from Cassville High School in 1964. He was drafted into the Army on Feb. 8, 1967, completing basic training at Fort Bliss, Texas, AIT school at Fort Leonard Wood and Atomic Demolition School at Fort Belvoir, Va. He wound up at Donna Anna Range in New Mexico, where he trained for the 31st Combat Engineer Battalion.
En route to Vietnam, Bolton was aboard the USNS Barrett, a ship met by a Pacific hurricane and nearly capsized. After 22 days at sea, the ship was denied docking at the harbor in Vung Tau due to Virt Cong mortar attacks. Bolton said it was quite the welcoming party.
The next day, the Barrett was allowed to dock, and Bolton was flown to Xuan Loc's Blackhorse Base Camp, which was named for and the home of the 11th Armored Calvary Regiment. Bolton's battalion gave support to the regiment, as well as the 1st Calvary, Big Red One, and others.
On Aug. 30, 1968, the five-ton truck Bolton was riding in with five others struck a land mine. Bolton was severely injured and transported to a field hospital, where he was stabilized and allowed to be transported to a more advanced hospital in Vung Tau.
After recovering from a broken back caused by the mine explosion, Bolton was awarded the Purple Heart and returned to active duty, where he remained until Jan. 30, 1969. He was then honorably discharged and returned to Cassville.
After returning home, Bolton married Frances Roden, a 1966 Cassville graduate, in July of 1969. They have two children, David Bolton, of Cassville, and Malinda (Bolton) Presley, of Branson, and seven grandchildren.
Bolton later worked for the Missouri Department of Transportation retiring in 2002 from the position of barn foreman. Today, he still lives on his family's farm and raises beef cattle.
Bolton said events like Cassville's assembly are great for veterans, describing the pageantry as encouraging and inspiring to those who have served in the armed forces.
"It's a great thing, and Cassville has always been good about doing this," he said. "It's good to see so much patriotism, and a lot of the songs and events bring back memories. I love our country, and I hope our young kids can do the same."
At Southwest High School, a flag was presented to U.S. Army veteran James Larson, who served from 1951-1955, as he was the oldest veteran in attendance, born in 1929.
"I love [this event]," he said. "I like the band, and the [flag line] girls that twirl and the singing."
Larson, married 63 years to his wife, Vonnie, said he is not yet sure what he will do with the new flag.
"I still have my dad's flag, and he fought in World War I," Larson said.
Larson has two great-grandsons in second grade at Southwest.
In Exeter, retired Master Sgt. Barry Pond, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1986-2008, spoke to students and visitors attending the Veterans Day assembly. Having recently moved to the area from Hawaii, Pond said Sharon Crouch asked him to speak at the event.
"She asked me [to speak], and I would not refuse that," he said. "I think it's very important to have these kind of events, as it gives the rising generation lessons to learn while growing up."
In his speech, Pond challenged the students to always stand up for the promise of America and doing good by quoting Edmund Burke.
"'The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men [and women] to do nothing,'" he said. "So, I just asked them not to be the person that does nothing. I was glad to be here today and happy to speak."
Ferman Prewitt, who spent two years in Germany in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer, attended the Veterans Day ceremony in Wheaton, the school from which he graduated.
"I grew up going to this school and we didn't do an assembly like this to honor veterans when I was in school," he said. "So, I think it's great to honor the veterans, and I love that the kids are so good about doing this."
At the Purdy High School Veterans Day assembly on Friday, Mark McMillin, past commander of the Hobbs-Anderson American Legion Post No. 91 in Monett who retired from the U.S. Special Operations Forces in 2004, spoke about how to recognize veterans.
He stressed that saying, "Thank you for your service" is little more than thanking someone for cleaning tables in a restaurant.
"Thank you for your service to our country has a whole different meaning," McMillin said. "Tell a veteran, 'Thank you for my freedom.' That person wrote a check to put his life on the line. We owe them everything."
McMillin stressed the importance of commitment. He recalled that working in Special Operations, his job was to provide support for "the best of the best." Two months before the Black Hawk Down incident, the team from that flight, part of Operation Gothic Support, had been his team. Recalling them, and how he spoken at one of their funerals, in a subsequent mission, McMillin was adamant that unless certain preparations were made, several from the flight were likely not to return.
McMillin's insistence proved pivotal in securing the needed preparations for that mission, and he stressed anyone can make a difference by remaining committed to their goals.
McMillin also spoke about post traumatic stress syndrome, leading to suicides by 22 men and women who have served in combat every day. Volunteers came onto the gym floor and together with McMillin, they did 22 pushups to emphasize the loss.
"Tell [veterans] you care," McMillin said. "We need to do something."
Coinciding with Armistice Day and Remembrance Day in other countries, Veterans Day is on Nov. 11 each year and is a public holiday set aside to honor all military veterans.