By Jacqueline Frawley
On Thursday, Nov. 10, the students of FGHS gave a warm welcome to nearly 100 veterans from our community. At our 15th annual Veteran’s Day assembly, the choir sang, the orchestra played, and Forest Grove was given the chance to honor those who served in the military and to remember the ones who couldn’t come back.
Our high school began hosting a Veteran’s Day assembly 15 years ago. The first assembly took place in the auditorium, with Mr. Truax as one of the three guest speakers. Since then, the assembly has grown into a dignified community event, which is fairly unique to Forest Grove. Most schools do not have a Veteran’s Day assembly, especially not one as elaborate as ours. Our Veteran’s Day assembly is known for bringing together many student organizations for the event. Members from NHS, FFA, and YAF greet the veterans at the door and do everything possible to make them feel comfortable. Members of the high school band, orchestra, and choir provide patriotic music throughout the assembly, and even the middle school choir gets to participate. The musicians play a piece that contains a small theme song for each of the five branches: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. The Star Spangled Banner is also included.
The effort that is put forth by the students involved in the assembly truly impresses the veterans and is part of what makes the assembly so special. Veterans often comment on how much they enjoyed seeing the young musicians perform; wearing tuxedos and black gowns, or how much they appreciated the respectful NHS members assisting them. “We put our best foot forward for the veterans, and our administration lets us do what’s necessary to make it a first-class operation”, says Mr. Wismer, coordinator of the event and social studies teacher at Forest Grove High School.
This year’s assembly had around 90 veterans, who were encouraged to bring their loved ones. A reception was held after the assembly for the veterans. Community members were also encouraged to come, and a large banner was put over Main Street prior to the event.
This year’s guest speaker, Toran Gaal, was a former Marine who lost both of his legs in a tour of Iraq. Gaal now participates in marathons, coaches basketball, and is a motivational speaker. Toran’s wife Lisa also made an appearance at the assembly as a public speaker.
Many people at our school have a close relationship with a veteran, which is part of what makes the assembly so meaningful. From our school, we have Mr. McCahon, whose father was part of the Bataan Death March during World War 2. We also have Mr. Thoma, whose father-in-law was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. Several of the students also have grandparents, siblings, etc. who have served in the military.
For Mr. Wismer, the best part of the assembly is when the kids give a standing ovation as the veterans march in. “The respect the kids give the veterans is a very neat thing. To me, this is the best assembly of the year” he says. Veteran Jim Craig agrees, saying “It’s good to see all of the students paying attention. The whole thing is a great program”. Unlike the pep assemblies that take place during the rest of the school year, the purpose of this assembly is to show respect for a serious topic, and the students do an excellent job of that. The kids don’t have their phones out, they aren’t whispering to their neighbor, and they aren’t shouting as loud as possible. Instead, they are giving their undivided attention every part of the event. This assembly allows the members of FGHS to learn about an impressive topic. It gives them the chance to show respect, gratitude, and appreciation to the many veterans who deserve it.