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Blandford students reminded to encourage, thank veterans
Pastor, Marine Corps vet delivers powerful message
Holding an American flag, first-grader Oliver Bennett sits with his father, Shawn Bennett. - photo by Mark Lastinger

RINCON — Lon Harden spared the children details about the horrors of war. He shared information about special Americans who are willing to fight in them, however.

The pastor at Guyton’s Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, Harden was the featured speaker at Friday’s Veterans Day ceremony at Blandford Elementary School. He opened his remarks by reciting the history and purpose of Veterans Day, a federal holiday observed annually on Nov. 11 to honor military personnel (who were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable).

Veterans Day coincides with other holidays, including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are commemorated in other countries that mark the anniversary of the end of World War I.

“I say to our veterans today, ‘We salute you. We salute you to the utmost’ — those who have gone on and fought in the first wars that our country was engaged in up until this present time,’ ” Harden said.

Harden mentioned some of the characteristics of service members, including physical fitness, discipline, confidence and teamwork skills. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Gulf War, a 35-country military coalition in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. He recalled training at Paris Island, South Carolina, and other difficult places during his eight-year military stint.

“Those who are presently serving (in the military) and those that have served gave ultimate sacrifices, not only from their families but also sacrifices of your time and also your physical and mental capabilities,” he said. “Again, we have defended this country against foreign and domestic threats all along these periods of time.”

Speaker Lon Harden stresses a point during Friday’s Veterans Day ceremony. - photo by Mark Lastinger

Just 17 at the time of his enlistment, Harden encouraged the audience to openly express thankfulness to veterans for their service.

“I say, ‘Shake their hand. Encourage them,’ ” he said. “We don’t know what they went through to get to where they are. There are many different things that the veterans face and some of them are mental, and we deal with that.

“So, again, when you encourage her or him, you let them know that their service was not in vain.”

Friday’s event included musical presentations by student leaders instructed by teachers Carrie Newkirk and Lindsey Plankhorn. In addition, veterans in the audience were asked to stand to receive gifts from students.

The “Presentation of the Colors” featured the Blandford Elementary School Color Guard and the Fort Stewart Dental Health Activity Color Guard. Effingham County Rebel Regiment trumpeter Austin Wegmann played “Taps.”

The ceremony closed with a parade through the school and a reception in the commons.