July 13, 2024
Annapolis, US 87 F

Rockbridge Academy honors Veterans

The fourth and fifth grade students in the flag line for the bagpipe procession at Rockbridge Academy's Veterans Day Ceremony
The fourth and fifth grade students in the flag line for the bagpipe procession at Rockbridge Academy‘s Veterans Day Ceremony

Every Veterans Day at Rockbridge Academy, history books and research papers are set aside for a few important hours.  Pages of history breathe as veterans stand before them, turning memorized schoolbook facts into a living legacy.  Guests gather to witness the students honor those who serve our nation with beautiful music and persuasive speeches.  This year’s standing-room-only service was attended by 50 veterans spanning 75 years of military history, family members of veterans, elected officials, Rotarians, and VFW members.

The student speakers heartened guests with poise that belies their years.  Sixth grader Justice Powell eloquently recited by heart The Gettysburg Address and classmate Leah Persons led The Pledge of Allegiance.  Eighth grader Hannah Walker and Seniors Caitlin Flanagan and James Mackes presented their VFW Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy essays.  Speaking on this year’s theme, Why Veterans are Important to Our Nation’s History, Mackes eloquently declared, “We stand on the strong shoulder of veterans…so that we can breathe the air of a blessedly free life.” 

Keynote speaker Commander Olin Sell, a 1992 U.S. Naval Academy graduate with two decades of global special operations experience, reminded his audience they are the veteran’s rear echelon.  He urged the students to live a life that honors the sacrifices veterans make.

The ceremony ended with the honored guests joining in a bagpipe procession through a fourth and fifth grade student flag line for a symbolic wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of Senior Chief Altah Nichols, Jr., USN (Retired).  Standing very still with flags in hand, the young students knew this moment was important.  They wanted to get it right.  Seniors Daniel Hollidge and James McKenna assisted the Honorable Cathy Vitale as she placed the wreath at the grave, and the lilting notes of Taps brought this day’s living lessons in honor to a close.

For a more in-depth story and additional photos, visit www.rockbridge.org

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