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GBHS holds early Veterans Day assembly
Students honor vets
new_slt_gbhs vets McLeland.jpg
Sgt. Dave McLeland speaks to an all-school assembly Friday at Great Bend High School, in honor of Veterans Day. - photo by Susan Thacker

Great Bend High School students honored veterans Friday in advance of Veterans Day.

Veterans were invited to the program. As they entered the school, each was presented with a hand-written thank you note from a student and escorted to the GBHS gymnasium for an all-school assembly featuring the band, orchestra and Madrigals vocal group.

The American Legion Riders presented the colors.

Student Council President Lakin Pafford led the Pledge of Allegiance.

GBHS history teacher Denny Lewis told the students there are 23 million U.S. veterans nationwide and all are deserving of respect and honor.

“All who served have given up some of the best years of their lives,” he said. “If we value anything above our freedom, we will lose our freedom.”

The guest speaker was Sgt. Dave McLeland, a 1967 graduate of Great Bend High School who still holds the school record in track for the mile event, which is now the 1600 meter. He went on to attend Fort Hays State University, where he won a national track championship in 1972, and to earn a degree in education. During a long tenure of teaching history and coaching in Barton County, McLeland also served in the U.S. Army Reserves, attaining the rank of Sgt. First Class.

“I feel very fortunate that I come from a long line of veterans,” he said. His grandfather served during World War I and his father served under General George Patton in World War II. McLeland himself participated in Operation Desert Storm. He was proud when his son wanted to go into the Marine Corps; in addition to serving his country, his son learned the skills to become an air traffic controller.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of jobs in every branch of service,” McLeland told the students. “The Marine Corps taught him a trade that he is now using in his civilian life.”

Likewise, McLeland has a nephew who is a Green Beret in the U.S. Army who is well on his way to becoming a medical doctor. “The Amy is paying for all of his schooling.”

Whether students enter the military  or not, McLeland told them, “Every one of you has a responsibility to be the best citizen you possibly can.”

And for those who do choose military service, “You will have a pride in your heart for the rest of your life — that pride will never go away.”

Students gave the veteran a standing ovation.

Recognition of veterans in attendance was done with veterans standing as the theme songs to their branches of service played in “Salute to America’s Finest.” The U.S. Army, the oldest branch of the United States Armed Forces, was created in 1775. The Navy and Marine Corps were created later that year. The Coast Guard was created in 1790 and the Air Force in 1947.

Students and faculty who currently have someone in the military were also recognized.

"Taps" was played on trumpet after Lewis read the poem "In Flanders Fields."