Students mix with the Patriot Guard to greet veterans as they arrive at Goddard High School for the annual Veterans Day Assembly, Friday afternoon. Mark Wilson Photo
Goddard High School students provided a heroes’ welcome Friday for area veterans at the school’s sixth annual Veterans Day Assembly, which received a representative from each of America’s conflicts going all the way back to World War I.
The student body rose to its feet in a thunderous ovation when veterans were escorted into the gymnasium, a spirited show of appreciation that lasted nearly 10 minutes. All veterans found at their seats thank you letters written by GHS students.
“This is a huge event for Goddard,” Patty Nolan, GHS teacher, said. “We understand and appreciate that not all veterans have the time where they’re appreciated.”
Many students wore name tags in order to speak with veterans on a first-name basis before and after the assembly, an effort to gain as much from the experience as possible. Nolan, whose father served in World War II, said more than 60 students signed up to greet veterans at the door with Patriot Guard Riders and to escort veterans into the auditorium. She said veterans have a lot to offer GHS students who “need to hear those wise words.”
“This is a big deal. I get choked up every year just thinking how appreciative we need to be to the people who gave of themselves,” she said.
“It means a lot to our student body — probably as much to our student body as it does to the veterans who we honor.”
Veterans or relatives of veterans who represented America’s conflicts included Geraldine Willoughby, the widow of World War I veteran Henry Eugene Willoughby. Geraldine, 93, has lived in Roswell for about 40 years, and said the GHS assembly was “the best I have seen in all my life.”
“I think it’s wonderful what they’re doing,” she said. “I think it’s good for the children to learn things that they wouldn’t have known if they hadn’t come.” Geraldine, raised during the 1920s in Antlers, Okla., shared how her husband served his country as a horseshoer. “They had lots of horses in World War I. And he was a horseshoer in there instead of going into battle. … That was three or four years before I was born even, but he talked about it quite a bit in his days. He sure did.”
Brian Luck, GHS principal, said Nolan had been working on the assembly for seven months, highlighting how much the school takes pride in putting on a big event for veterans every year. “It’s a true labor of love, and we’re very fortunate, very happy to be able to put on something like this.”
Luck said the enthusiasm GHS students show each year at the assembly is something to be admired. “You know what, kids get a bad rap these days. And unfortunately, you usually only hear about the bad things kids will do. But what we’ve found out is that when we put our kids with these veterans, and watch their emotions unfold in front of us, this event really grabs our kids.”