Source: Nicole Cooke | DemocratSmith-Cotton High School show choirs perform “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” at the closing of the annual Veterans Day Ceremony hosted Friday as they are surrounded by the student body waving American flags.
Students at Smith-Cotton High School began Friday by honoring those who have bravely served this country during the school’s annual Veterans Day Ceremony.
The morning began for local veterans and the Smith-Cotton JROTC with a special veterans breakfast at the school, followed by an all-school assembly. Everyone stood quietly as the veterans filed into the gym through a line of JROTC cadets; between the veterans and their guests and JROTC, the entire floor of the gym was filled.
“I believe Veterans Day is a perfect day for our school, our community and our country to reflect,” S-C Principal Wade Norton said at the beginning of the ceremony. “We all have our worries and concerns, we all may be scared about the uncertain future, but I want everyone to remember our veterans and active duty men and women during our reflection. These brave men and women walk forward and continue to march toward danger in the belief and protection of our country. There’s very few times, if any, that everyone in our country has agreed, but we can all agree that we hold the members of our armed services in the highest regards.”
Those gathered heard from guest speaker Maj. (Ret.) William S. Ratcliffe of the U.S. Army. He spoke about war — “War is an awful thing. … And no one loves peace more than the veteran.” — and the need to honor and remember all veterans for their service to America.
“Veterans Day gives Americans the opportunity to honor and celebrate the sacrifice of all veterans, living and not living,” Ratcliffe said. “… Memorial Day is designed to honor and reflect on those who are no longer with us. To me, the two holidays are the same and I celebrate them every day of my life.
“I think of those who came before me and it scares me sometimes to think about who will come after me because I wish they didn’t have to go through what so many of us have gone through,” he added.
According to his biography in the ceremony program, Ratcliffe, a Chillicothe native, spent 10 years on active duty as a Regular Army Officer and 11 years with the U.S. Army Reserves. He served in Special Forces, Ranger, and Infantry units.
He served 26 months in the Republic of Vietnam as a Special Forces “A” detachment executive officer and commander, senior adviser to a Vietnamese Ranger Battalion, and an adviser to the 2nd South Vietnamese Army Division operations staff. He also served as “A” detachment commander, battalion operations officer, and “B” detachment commander with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), in Okinawa, Japan.
Some of his honors include the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Special Forces Tab, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, Vietnamese Paratrooper Badge, and Nationalist Chinese Paratrooper Badge.
Ratcliffe was employed with the IBM Corporation in Coral Gables, Florida, for 20 years and has been involved in numerous civic and church organizations.
Ratcliffe relied on poetry to help relay some of his points, reading excerpts from “In Flanders Field,” “I have a rendezvous with death” and “Tommy.”
He also thanked those who may not have been on the front lines, but still played a vital role in the American military.
“Today we recognize all veterans — men, women, all occupation specialties. In particular I would like to recognize the nurses,” Ratcliffe said. “… What those young ladies put up with, and perhaps some of you are in the audience today, I thank you for what you did, what you put up with day to day, I don’t know how you did it.”
Many in the audience had tears in their eyes during a somber ceremony conducted by JROTC cadets to honor those who died while serving their country. A table was set with items of special meaning in the center of the gym. All the lights were dimmed as cadets walked up to the table one by one to place an officer’s hat from each military branch on the table, saluting those no longer with us.
“Today is Veterans Day. Tomorrow and the day after will always be Veterans Day to those of us who served …” Ratcliffe said in closing. “I ask that you respect each veteran, whether it be your father, mother, uncle, grandparents, cousin, because without what veterans have done, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or on Twitter @NicoleRCooke.