ELLINWOOD — The public was invited to attend a special tribute to area veterans at the Ellinwood High School auditorium Monday morning. The program was organized by the EHS History Club and featured patriotic music arrangements from all grades, including songs sung by Ellinwood Grade School students, and Ellinwood’s choir and band programs.
Several Ellinwood veterans who served in numerous wars spanning the 20th and 21st centuries, including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and the War on Terror, were special guests invited to attend breakfast in the morning before the program, and to attend a reception following the program in the Ellinwood School and Community Library, where members of the EHS History Club and other interested members of the public could visit with them and ask questions about their experience both on and off the field of battle.
“On behalf of everyone here, I would like to thank those who have served and those who continue to serve today so that America can sleep peacefully at night,” said Aiden Ricker, president of the EHS History Club. “These men and women know the risk that they accept so that others won’t have to.”
Club members presented a slide show tribute featuring photos submitted by students of family members who have served or are currently serving in all branches of the U.S. military. Each photo included the name of the veteran or service member and some information about their military careers. These included community members Jeffrey Keith, the father of Jayden Keith, who has served in the U.S. Army since 2003, and Molly Birch, the mother of Jayden Babcock, who has served in the U.S. Army since 2008. One slide featured photos of three members of the Ater family, Kimberlee (Navy), Charles (Navy) and Morgan (Army), all family members of Jim Corbett.
Following the slide show, the keynote speaker, Martin Miller, was introduced by both his sons, Eli and Asher Miller, both EHS students, who shared their father’s accomplishments in the U.S. Air Force in the 1970s and 1980s as a Top Gun trainer and operational test pilot for the Warthog program, before returning to Great Bend to join the family oil business.
Miller began managing the Great Bend Municipal Airport 17 years ago. He shared facts about the numbers of Americans who served in each of the major wars the U.S. has been involved with since World War I, noting that 2019 represents the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day, which was called Armistice Day in 1919 to celebrate the end of World War I at 11:11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918.
“It is to honor all who have worn the uniform for military service, in war or in peace, whether they are dead or alive,” he said. He recited the oath he and others take as they enter military service, swearing to protect the country against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
According to Miller, there were 4.7 million service members that served during World War I, 16.2 in World War II, 5.7 million during the Korean war, 8.7 million in Vietnam, 2.2 million in the Gulf War, and 2.1 million up to today in the War on Terror.
“Today, there are 29 million veterans estimated in the United States. Nine percent of them are women,” he said. He added that today, only 1% of Americans currently wear the uniform, and just under 6% have worn it in the past.
“Every veteran has a unique story about their service to our country, and they can tell you who and what has happened to them along the way – including their brothers and sisters in arms they lost, the chaos and fear of enemy fire and the hollowness of oceans-wide separation from loved ones and the grueling physical and emotional challenges that come standard with a job that (leaves) scars and wounds – some physical and others unseen,” Miller said. “Many more carry these (for a) lifetime, their futures forever marked by their experience as a soldier. These are the realities only a proud few truly understand. Through their sacrifice they made our country safe and (allowed others) the freedom to pursue the American dream.”
Miller also spoke of the history of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
He concluded his presentation with a short video courtesy of the Smithsonian channel, about the abilities and importance of the Warthog, a military aircraft described as “a gun with a plane attached.”
EHS History Club sponsors are Trevor Bieberle and Sean O’Neill. Bieberle encouraged community members and students to submit additional photos of their veteran family members to include in next year’s program.