Thank you for veteran tribute | Guest column

by Tom and Karen Ritter

Orcas Island

A tribute to the military veterans of the United States of America was conducted on Thursday, Nov. 9 at Orcas Island school. This special event has been conducted for five years and each time it becomes more dramatic and “professional.”

Early this morning a large number of veterans and their spouses assembled in the school cafeteria for breakfast and to exchange ideas. Then they “marched” to the gymnasium and as they preceded the path was lined with at least 55 elementary school students who recognized each veteran with loud applause. Then the veterans and the public gathered in the gymnasium along with all students of Orcas Island Public Schools. In addition, the Orcas Island Community Band was present to perform. There must have been 450 people who assembled for this special event to witness how the students and staff expressed their respect and appreciation to the military veterans. Everyone on Orcas Island should have attended this ceremony.

The ceremony began with “Presentation of Colors” by the American Legion of Orcas Island. Then the Orcas Island School District band played the “National Anthem” and everyone stood tall with great pride. The elementary students sang “In Service to Our Country” with strong enthusiasm. This was followed by the rousing and patriotic music “Armed Forces Salute” by the community band conducted by Jim-Schaffer Bauck.

Rick Hughes, San Juan County Councilman, gave tribute to the veterans and their service to our nation. Then “America the Beautiful” was presented by the Orcas Island School String Orchestra directed by Pamela Wright.

The keynote speaker was Tom Fiscus of Orcas Island, who is a retired General of the U.S. Air Force. His powerful speech was directed to all veterans of all past wars and to the students who were inspired by his emotional message about the cost of freedom.

The student leadership team presented a Flag Folding Ceremony. With each fold of the flag, a student cited a message from many of the American patriots. The celebration concluded with the song “Still in My Heart” that was sung by the elementary students and the grand music “Washington Post” presented by the Orcas Island Community Band.

This prime event was organized by Kyle Freeman and Lorena Stankevich. You can enjoy a video of most of the ceremony by visiting the website for the school district.

The most important message is that the teachers and the students of the public school system understand the fundamental reasons why our nation is strong and that they honor America and the value of freedom.