“We get to know history by getting to know those who lived through history”: commemorating Mead High’s Annual Veterans Day Assembly

A gymnasium full of students, staff, and families welcome local veterans to honor their service to our country


Aiden Owen

Tom Meylor, a World War II veteran, is greeted by those in attendance at the 2018 MHS Veterans Day assembly.

“The men and women that we are about to welcome have made sacrifices that many of us cannot fully understand… They risked all that they have and all that they are so that we could take our seats here today.”


Before the assembly even began, men and women—some as young as their mid-twenties and others as old as their nineties—gathered outside the gymnasium as they came together with one common feature: they were all veterans of our military who had served and sacrificed for our country.

Air Force veteran Eric Lewis said, “I think it’s quite an amazing turnout here,” as he looked out over his fellow veterans as they assembled in the athletic hallway to wait to be led into the main gymnasium.

Mrs. Martenson, an English teacher, was also impressed by the amount of attending veterans. She said, “So many more veterans than ever before are here today, and they’ve been joined by their families which is also really cool.” She summed it up with, “There’s just a ton!”

I could only agree as I tried in vain to get a headcount of all those who had come to be honored by our students.

While the students and staff began to set up the gym, I stayed behind to gather comments from our veterans about what they thought about the impending assembly.

Tod Jackson, a veteran from the Army, said, “[The assembly] is good support. It shows [that] Mead cares about its veterans. It’s what this country’s based on.” It was his first year attending a Mead High School Veterans Day assembly.

Ed Stephenson, another Army veteran, remarked, “I’m pretty impressed. The best aspect of this assembly is to just honor and respect the veterans in the community.”

After talking with the veterans for a bit, I made my way into the gymnasium to talk to staff and students that had already gathered in the gymnasium.

Accompanist Mrs. Harris said that the most important things about this is “to recognize that veterans have lived different lives from us and put themselves out there.” She also said, “Talking with and knowing our veterans is really important and good. We get to know history by getting to know those who lived through history.”

Our principal Mrs. Ayers commented that, “To me, it’s recognizing the sacrifices that the men of the military give and the freedoms that they provide to us. It’s also about connecting a younger generation with an older generation in terms of service.”

Misha Kline, a senior who has experienced three other Veterans Day assemblies, said, “I love hearing the music and seeing how all the performances come together to make something beautiful.

Mary Maher, a sophomore, commented, “Honoring our vets is the most important thing about this.”

By 1:30, all grades had filed into the gym and were seated in their assigned sections. The assembly was ready to begin.

Mr. Clark opened the assembly saying, “The men and women that we are about to welcome have made sacrifices that many of us cannot fully understand… They risked all that they have and all that they are so that we could take our seats here today” and asked us all to welcome in our veterans.

The brave men and women who served our country were escorted into the gym by the band’s drumline and welcomed by a standing ovation from the student body who continued to clap even after the veterans had taken their seats.

Superintendent Dr. Don Hadad remarked as they entered that it’s “really really important to recognize and say thank you to our veterans because what they give to us is priceless. It’s important for our school and students to see just how much they have sacrificed.”

After their entrance, the assembly remained standing as the orchestra beautifully played our national anthem.

Following the National Anthem, one of our student speakers, senior Indiana Sjahputera, gave a speech detailing just what the veterans have provided to us: “a country to call home.”

Her beautiful speech was succeeded by the band’s powerful performance of “America the Beautiful.” I could feel the music—literally—in my bones as the notes moved the floor. It was that powerful.

Angie Bustillos was next to give a speech, and she made it known to us just what it means to be brave: taking those first few steps towards opportunity.

After Angie’s speech, the choir performed the Service Medley. They highlighted first the Army, then the Marines, then the Navy, then the Coast Guard, and, finally, the Air Force as they gave the veterans the chance to stand to be honored when their branch of service was sung about.

Mr. Clark playfully remarked that “the Coast Guard’s not too popular” in response to no veteran standing during the Coast Guard’s verse, but then again, we are in a landlocked state.

Following this musical number, our keynote speaker, Mr. Juan Dorado, a highly decorated veteran with 25 years of service, was handed the floor and gave a powerful speech to the student body.

After Mr. Dorado’s speech, Mr. Clark closed out the assembly by thanking our student speakers, our keynote speaker, and our veterans and their family members for joining us and saying, “I ask that all you here today work to preserve these values for the future of all Americans. I am America. Let’s show our appreciation for our veterans. Please stand and, as they exit the gym, show our veterans our appreciation for their sacrifices.”

Then, promptly at 2:10, our veterans were clapped out of the gymnasium as the student body, once more, thanked them for their service.

Mrs. Hedlun, an English teacher, said, “It’s something like this that makes Mead special.”

“I liked the whole thing. I really liked the band and chorus and when the student body clapped and didn’t stop clapping for us,” said Gilbert Garcia, an Air Force Veteran. He continued to tell me, “This means a lot. When I came back after Vietnam… Well, they didn’t really like the American soldier, so this means a lot to me now.” Mr. Garcia had served in the Air Force for 24 years.

I feel like it also meant a lot to the student body. After the assembly, I saw many students hugging their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and parents who had come to be recognized for the American heroes they are. I’ll admit to being one of these students who got to have a family member present as I got to thank my father for coming to be recognized for his time served.

But it wasn’t just students that had family in attendance. Ms. Berry, our choir teacher, had her grandfather here as well. Mr. Ron Brasseur had been with the Airborne Rangers and he, like his granddaughter, also taught music classes when he entered the civilian life. Fondly, he remarked that the choir’s performance was his favorite and he “never [gets] tired of those old military songs.”

I was lucky enough to get to talk with one of our oldest veterans to attend after the assembly. Mr. Tom Meylor is a 93-year-old World War II veteran who was in attendance today. When I told him that I was glad he could be here, he said, “I was glad to be here myself. I thought it was wonderful—the best [assembly] I’ve ever been to in my life.” It was quite the high praise coming from someone with so much experience.

I also had the pleasure of talking with our keynote speaker, Mr. Dorado, after the assembly and he said, “My favorite part of the assembly was the first part where we entered with all the students clapping and kept clapping for us even after we had entered. I guess you could call it emotional.”

He also remarked that “it was surprising how many veterans were there. That was a lot of veterans in one place at one time. I don’t know how you guys do it… It’s like magic.”

He said that seeing all the veterans there, from the oldest veteran who served more than 50 years ago to the youngest who just enlisted, “makes me feel confident. Whether it’s 50 years ago or today you have to have people to protect the country and it makes me confident that we can continue protecting our country and be the best at it.”

“I was humbled,” Mr. Dorado said with a smile. “It’s so humbling to think that so many people support us in what we do.”