By Susi Hackman
Rockbridge Academy in Millersville held its 4th annual Veterans Day Ceremony on Nov. 12 to honor those who have served our nation in the military services and to inspire students to appreciate the service and sacrifice of our country’s veterans.
In addition to the students and faculty, over 50 guests gathered at Baldwin Memorial United Methodist Church on Generals Highway in Millersville. The heartfelt turnout included one U.S. Navy veteran from WWII who participated in the D-Day invasion at Normandy, four Korean War veterans, nine Vietnam veterans, 12 veterans of the Cold Wars, two Desert Shield/Desert Storm veterans and three post-9/11 veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Students played a large role in the ceremony. Emily Wilmot, Rockbridge Academy ninth grader, provided the cover art for the program, a pen and ink drawing depicting the historic photograph by Joe Rosenthal Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima. Eighth grader Annabel Mungan read her VFW winning essay entitled, “What I Would Tell America’s Founding Fathers.” Ms. Mungan spoke from the heart thanking various key forefathers for their individual roles in making this nation. Seniors Josiah Mitchell and Jane Boswell both spoke eloquently answering the question, “Is our constitution still relevant?” Mitchell emphasized that yes, our forefathers understood the need to combat man’s inherent greed and thus crafted specific rules by which we must continue to govern if we are to remain a free nation. Boswell read a candid and inspiring poem she wrote in answer to the question and left the audience smiling with her straightforward and honest rhyme.
Upper School Principal, Capt. Ralph Janikowsky, USN (Retired), spoke about his personal experience with students during the sixth grade field trip to Gettysburg. At the end of their field trip, some sixth graders were reading a plaque at Gettysburg National Cemetery entitled “The Soldier’s Last Tattoo.” Janikowsky emphasized that Rockbridge students study history not for just the facts, but to embrace the principles behind those facts. Continuing the patriotic theme, sixth grader Shoré Oyemade recited President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Each year as part of this unique event, the school conducts a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of a veteran and selects a local veteran to honor as a symbolic gesture on behalf of all veterans. This year the school honored decorated WWII veteran, US Army Warrant Officer Buster Eugene Collins, who served in numerous campaigns in the Pacific and was a long time beloved member of Baldwin UMC.
As guests slowly dispersed, leaves swirled down with the notes of a bagpipe playing and each person was left with their own thoughts. Veterans Day events are held all over the nation, in tiny towns to the nation’s capital next door. Rockbridge Academy’s ceremony afforded all who attended a perfect time to reflect and be grateful.
Photos by Therese Cooley