Great Bend High School students listened respectfully Friday morning as one of their alumni, Michael Harbaugh, described his military career. He was the guest speaker at the school’s annual Veterans Day program.
Veterans were invited to attend, and students were waiting at the door to escort them to the gym and reserved seating.
GBHS Stuco President Logan Perry led the audience in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
The GBHS orchestra played “God Bless America,” and the Madrigal Pops sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and “I’m Proud to Be an American.”
Members of local veterans groups carried American flags. When the marching band played “Salute to America’s Finest,” a medley of the official songs of the United States Armed Forces, veterans were asked to stand as their branch of service was recognized. Students and faculty with loved ones in the military were also invited to stand and be recognized during the ceremony.
Drama instructor Dan Heath was the emcee, and spoke briefly about the history of the federal holiday and its significance today.
“All who served have given up some of the best years of their lives,” Heath said. Because of them, “America’s freedoms and liberties remain ours to control. We owe respect and honor to all who have served.”
Heath also thanked the American Legion, American Legion Riders and Veterans of Foreign Wars for their participation in the program.
Harbaugh is a 1992 GBHS graduate. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1993-2000, advancing to Staff Sergeant. He was stationed at Rhein Main AB in Frankfurt, Germany and Pope AFB in North Carolina. While at Pope AFB he was deployed for Operation Southern Watch in Saudi Arabia and was deployed as part of the stabilization force in Bosnia Herzegovina.
Now married and the father of three, Harbaugh has returned to his hometown.
He described his work, recalling a humanitarian mission in Bosnia in 1997. “At Christmas we loaded up food and toys in Humvees and took them to Sarajevo.”
His military service allowed Harbaugh to see much of Europe.
“I saw a lot of different people and places in the world,” he told the students. His final words to them were, “God bless the United States of America, and good luck tonight Panthers.”
Heath read the poem, “In Flanders Fields,” and the program ended with the playing of “Taps.”