The words “thank you” are all too often forgotten or not said. Smith-Cotton High School gave those two small words significance and meaning as they were spoken countless times during a Veterans Day ceremony Wednesday morning in gratitude and tribute to the men and women who have served the United States as members of the armed forces.
“I know that ‘thank you’ sometimes doesn’t hold the meaning that it should, but we hope today that you realize how big our thank you is to you and your families,” S-C Principal Wade Norton said in his opening remarks. “We are honored to host this ceremony as part of our community’s effort to honor our veterans.”
More than 250 veterans and family members attended the morning ceremony that paid tribute to the living and fallen area service men and women.
As part of the ceremony, Lt. Col. Harry Cunningham and members of the JROTC program paid tribute to the POW and MIA service members.
“You may have noticed the table set before you,” Cunningham said as the lights were dimmed in the gymnasium. “It is filled with symbolism.
“It is set for our prisoners of war and those missing in action from all wars,” Cunningham continued. “They are not with us today; the chair is empty, saved for their hoped return. Let us remember their absence.”
Four JROTC cadets then individually placed a hat from each service branch on the table.
Cunningham described what each of the items on the table represented.
Cadet Hollee Akers used a salt shaker to slowly pour salt onto a plate, representative of the family’s tears as they waited and remembered their loved one. Akers also cut a lemon as a symbol of the bitter fate of those missing in action unless a MIA soldier is returned home.
The final image Cunningham described was a faded picture on the table.
“The faded picture is a reminder that they are missed very much and are remembered by their families,” Cunningham explained. “As we look upon this empty table, do not remember ghosts from the past, remember our comrades.”
In his remarks, keynote speaker state Rep. Nathan Beard, R-Sedalia, also urged those in attendance, especially the student body, to remember and thank those who are in service to their country.
“Everyone loves a hero,” Beard said. “So I want you all to close your eyes if only for a few moments and picture the image of a hero.”
Beard told the audience that for some, a hero might be an athlete or someone they see in the movies.
“Now, open your eyes,” Beard said. “The real heroes walk around us every day and they go unnoticed; the real heroes are our veterans.
“We pass by them every day on the street and don’t realize their presence in front of us,” he continued. “They are truly heroes as a result of what they were willing to do for others.”
Beard explained that because the men and women of the military answered the call for duty, Americans now have the opportunity to live a life of freedom and choice.
“There are over 550,000 veterans in Missouri and more than 25 million in the United States,” Beard said. “Today is a day we should pay tribute to these men and women.
“It is a day to remember our true heroes, but not just today on Veterans Day,” he added. “It all starts with the understanding that they are right here in front of us and that we need to treat them with the respect they have earned, not only today but each and every day.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484