Students and faculty at Kiowa High School paid honor to local veterans at an assembly in the school gymnasium on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
For 31 years, fifth-grade teacher Polly Ehlers has been organizing the annual celebration. Ehlers' father was a veteran, as were many of the men in Kiowa she grew up around.
“I was raised in a family where the importance of patriotism was very high,” Ehlers said. “It's important that we teach that to the young kids.”
An honor guard from the American Legion Post 82 in Elizabeth opened the ceremony with the presentation of the colors, followed by the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Throughout the program, students from various classes, ranging from grade school to high school, honored the nearly 30 local veterans in attendance with readings and music.
The Kiowa High School Honor Society performed the Setting of the White Table Ceremony. Also referred to as the Missing Man Table or the Fallen Comrade Table, the practice prepares a single place setting at a table with a white tablecloth as a remembrance to the fallen, the missing, and prisoners of war.
Following a performance of “Taps” by Kiowa High student Wyatt McKnight, Superintendent Jason Westfall invited seniors Sunny Armijo and William Neighbors to the podium. Both Armijo and Neighbors are part of the Marine Corps delayed enlistment program and will ship out to basic training after the Class of 2016 graduates on May 29.
Armijo, who will report for duty on June 13, 2016, told the veterans and her fellow classmates that teamwork and the physical challenges were reasons for her enlistment in the Marine Corps, but the soft-spoken senior's reasoning went beyond just camaraderie.
“I want to serve others without having the notoriety of a single individual,” Armijo said.
Westfall closed the assembly by inviting the high school students down to the gymnasium floor to meet the community's veterans.
“This is really a living history sitting in front of you today,” he said.