On a bright and chilly Friday morning, veterans from all over Fayette County were welcomed and thanked with the annual Miami Trace Veterans Day Breakfast and Program.
The breakfast began at 7 a.m. with veterans from several organizations, and some not affiliated with any, enjoying a meal. It was prepared and served by Gary Campbell, the food service supervisor for Miami Trace Local Schools for many years and a veteran of the of the Vietnam War, Vicki Leeth, the rest of the kitchen staff, and the members of the student government. Following the breakfast, veterans were invited to witness and be a part of the program.
Ashley Donato started the student-led ceremony with the Pledge of Allegiance and the symphonic choir performed for the veterans. The choir sang both the “Star Spangled Banner” and honored veterans with “Because of the Brave.”
“On behalf of the students and faculty of Miami Trace High School we welcome all of the veterans that are here today to visit our school and to be a part of our assembly,” student Derek Moore said. “We thank you for your service.”
Justin Jones read “A Soldier’s Poem,” which described a soldier’s feelings of being in the military and what that means to them. Charla Parks then honored Campbell for his service to both the nation and Miami Trace. Marissa Sheets and Todd Peterson next took to the podium to recognize the many names of past Miami Trace students who went on to enlist in the military.
Ed Helt, a veteran of the Korean conflict and Americanism Chairman of the American Legion Post 25, was introduced by Madison Perry. He took time to honor different groups of veterans in the audience and those veterans who were visiting on their own.
Finally, Helt, as Americanism chairman, announced the highest scores on the Americanism Test, which allows students to show their knowledge of the country on a 50-question test to win a few prizes, including McDonald’s gift cards courtesy of Nick Epifano and the McDonald’s Restaurants of Fayette County. The winners this year were sophomores Nicholas Foody and Olivia Wolfe, juniors Dylan Page and Jordan Bernard, and seniors Todd Peterson and Bradleigh Justice. Additionally, five of the six scored the highest in their grade in the county and were honored as “county winners”: Foody, Wolfe, Page, Bernard and Peterson. The highest score within the county also came from Miami Trace and Page was awarded that honor, along with even more money on his gift card.
The honored guest for the assembly was Corporal Frank R. Wood. Wood is a 91-year-old World War II veteran, one of the last in the area. He was drafted into the United States Army after turning 18 and said goodbye to his expecting wife and left on a Greyhound bus for basic training. Wood ended up in Missouri, which he described as the “concentration camp” of training and ended up in Tampa, Fla. to wait on the rest of the 397th bomb group and 597th bomb squad. After the group met in Tampa, they began their journey to England.
About halfway through the 14-day journey by board, his shop was stranded for about half a day due to an equipment malfunction. The convoy continued to move forward and Wood’s ship was left behind. With German submarines in the waters below, this proved to be a scary and unnerving time for Wood. After his arrival in Bournemouth, England, a two-hour drive from London, he did a lot of miscellaneous duties such as working in the kitchen and “pretty much anything that kept him out of trouble.” Soon, however, he was called to help with the important invasion of Normandy: D-Day.
Wood was a carbine sharpshooter and assisted in the invasion. He said that many young, good boys died and that upon returning home, many of the soldiers tried to forget what happened. He would wake up in the night scared and confused at times because of his experience as a soldier. He only received letters from his family at home once a month, and after he completed his tour of duty, he returned to see his 2-year-old daughter, Margarette, for the first time. He described it as one of the best feelings in his life.
The couple would go on to have three more children and remained married for 72 years until the time of her passing. When asked how he felt about being honored at the ceremony, Wood simply remarked, “It is something that can only happen once in a lifetime.”
Before the assembly ended, the ceremony included an honoring of Glenn Jacobson, a former teacher, coach and mentor at Miami Trace. He was a proud army veteran, and the students saw it only fitting that they honor the life of this member of the Miami Trace family.
“When asked about his military experience, Mr. Jacobson once said, ‘I truly believe our armed forces are the most sacrificing and dedicated armed forces in the word. Both genders, all ages of soldier, will defend us and protect our freedom even if it mean their death; that’s why I wouldn’t change anything,’” Gavin Harper said. “Because of his service to his country and to the youth of this county, Glenn Jacobson’s legacy and integrity will live on in everyone he touched.”
The Text of Taps was read, “Day is done, gone the sun, from the lake, from the hills, from the sky; all is well, safely rest, God is nigh.” Brianna Longberry then played Taps in honor and memory of Jacobson while the assembly stood and veterans saluted.
“I would like to thank Ed Helt and Elaine Stalsworth again for their assistance with administering the Americanism Test and their assistance with putting on today’s program,” Miami Trace High School Principal Rob Enochs said nearing the conclusion of the ceremony. “I would next like to thank our honored guest Frank Wood for being in attendance today. I think his story is a great example of why his generation is often referred to as the greatest generation. It is truly an honor to have this opportunity to recognize the sacrifices that you and all veterans made for this great nation of ours.”
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy