High school students hear from Huckriede, Garrett at assembly
GRAVETTE — Gravette High School students and guests gathered in the performing arts center at the school at 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 9, for the annual Veterans Day observance. Kara Goodwin, Key Club president, welcomed everyone to the assembly; and Kade Jarvis, student council president, read a presidential proclamation honoring veterans and their families.
Emily Nichols introduced GHS students Austin Matney and Summer Simpkins, who served as the color guard and placed the flags of the United States and the state of Arkansas on the stage. Nichols then led the pledge of allegiance to the flag.
After a moment of silence, members of the GHS forensic team gave a reader’s theater production of “The War Prayer,” by Mark Twain, with each student, in turn, presenting a portion of the reading. Tiffany Wheeler introduced Steve Huckriede, keynote speaker for the program.
Huckriede began by acknowledging that, “War is never good,” but it is something we will always have with us, he said. He said he joined the military because of a long family history of military service. His brother Dave was in the service at the same time he was and served in the same unit in Vietnam. Brothers Mike and Scott also served in the military, and later his daughter Krystal joined the Marines and he said he was proud of her.
Huckriede went through flight school, with basic helicopter training at Mineral Wells, Texas, and advanced training at Fort Rucker, Ala. He described his unit as part of the air cavalry. “They just traded horses for helicopters,” he said.
He told a little of his experiences, particularly the death of a valued unit member, and said that the soldiers often made light of things as a means of helping dispel their fear of themselves or others dying.
Huckriede said he spoke to students at Glenn Duffy Elementary School in the past and asked them to find veterans and thank them for their service. He was pleasantly surprised to find how many followed his instructions. He asked the high school students to do the same.
“We can all do something,” he said. “Treat vets with total respect. Find one, or 20, and let them know you are very proud of their service. Love every minute you’re alive. You never know …,” he said, as his voice tapered off in conclusion.
Kyle Pilkington introduced the Gravette High School band; and members of the band, under the direction of band instructor Aaron Ray, played “Armed Forces on Parade,” with veterans in the audience standing as the fight song of their particular branch of service was played.
U.S. Army veteran Leonard Garrett was introduced and also spoke briefly to the audience. Garrett, a native of Okfuskee County, Indian Territory, also joined to honor the memory of his father and a brother who were in the military. He became a driver of military vehicles at Fort Polk, La., “everything from a five-ton truck to a Jeep,” and later attended MP school at Fort Gordon, Ga., jump school at Fort Benning, Ga., and was a food inspector at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He served in the military police and was a guard at the federal penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., after his military service.
Garrett commended the students listening and encouraged them, saying, “Whatever you choose to do, do it to the best of your ability.” He told them they were all champions. “Act like a champion and you’ll be a champion,” he concluded.
The GHS band played “Taps” to conclude the program, and Austin Matney and Summer Simpkins retired the colors. Refreshments were served in the high school commons following the program.
United States Navy veterans stand as the Gravette High School band plays “Anchors Aweigh,” the marching song of the U.S. Navy, during the school’s Veterans Day assembly Friday, Nov. 9. Pictured are James Evans (left), James Brooks, Al Blair and Bill Mattler, members of the John E. Tracy American Legion Post 25.