On Nov. 10, students from Hiawatha Middle and High Schools gathered in the gymnasium of the high school to celebrate local veterans. The assembly was sponsored by the Hiawatha FFA chapter.

The afternoon opened with the presentation of colors, and the Hiawatha Headliners led those who gathered in singing the National Anthem, after which, sophomore and FFA member Seth Bauerle led an afternoon prayer in honor of the veterans in attendance and around the globe.

The Honorable James Patton, Chief Judge of the 22nd Judicial District and a speaker during the assembly, served 30 years in the Kansas National Guard. Patton explained to students in attendance why he joined the service — first, because it helped pay for schooling, bet he also explained to those gathered that he grew up seeing both parents in uniform, though he never knew what they did in WWII.

Judge Patton is currently a member of the Brown County Honor Guard, which performs military services for veterans’ funerals.

“The military is about order and accomplishment…” said Judge Patton.

During his speech, Judge Patton encouraged students to ask questions and learn more about each of the veterans visiting the high school.

The next speaker to take the podium was CSM Curt Weldon. Weldon retired from USD 415 two years ago to deploy to Afghanistan. He was asked to speak about what a veteran is but, Weldon explained, he believes speaking about who our veterans are is more important.

“They look like you, your friends, your families… they are as diverse as this country.”

There are 1.4 million men and women currently serving our country on active duty. This number does not include the nearly 1.3 million enlisted “citizen soldiers” like Weldon who are on reserve and continue to train in case of an emergency.

CSM Weldon has been in the service for 35 years, with many weekends, training, and deployments away from his family.

CSM Weldon left students with an idea of the difficulty of earning the title of “veteran.”

“ I want you to understand, wearing the title ‘veteran’ is a lot easier than becoming a veteran.”

The assembly ended with HMS and HHS vocal instructor Sarah Kleopfer singing “God Bless the U.S.A.”

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