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Paynesville Press - November 19, 2003

Students celebrate Veteran's Day

By Michael Jacobson

Gifts without wrapping paper and ribbons. That's what Americans should remember on Veteran's Day, said high school teacher Bill Ryan, a Vietnam veteran who spoke at the high school program last week.

Gifts like friendship, faith, freedom, peace, and love, said Ryan, who broke his back when he crashed into the ground after being blasted 50 feet into the air in March 1967 when the armored personnel carrier he was riding on hit a mine in Vietnam.

veterans day singing Ryan told the high school student body about how his first thoughts went to a nun who had been his eighth grade teacher and how comforted his faith in God made him when he landed and was paralyzed below his waist. Then how grateful he was to get home and to have his parents give him unconditional love, his mother telling him, "As long as God gives us strength, your father and I will carry you where you want to go."

Ken Vork directed the high school band on Veteran's Day.

All veterans have made these gifts of friendship, faith, freedom, peace, and love possible, said Ryan. "Our gift to you, today and everyday, is this American flag," he said, "which represents the freedoms under which we live."

Veteran  removing flag Ryan asked the students to respect the American flag always and to respond to the call of their country if ever asked, fighting "with every ounce of strength" in their bodies.

Don Torbenson, a member of the American Legion color guard, removes the American flag at the end of the VeteranŐs Day program at Paynesville Area High School last week.

America should continue to fight for human rights, democracy, and freedom for all, said Ryan, who was greeted with an immediate standing ovation after reciting these lines from the Star Spangled Banner: "O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave; over the land of the free and the home of the brave."

The Veteran's Day program at the high school, held in the auditorium on Tuesday, Nov. 11, also featured poems and readings by the three staters (Heather Fuchs, Jon Scheierl, and Sami Tierney), a color guard from the American Legion, and songs by the band and the choir.

The high school mixed choir sang "God Bless America," 65 years after its debut. Though written by Irving Berlin in 1918, the song was not performed publicly until 20 years later, when Berlin revised the lyrics and Kate Smith sang the song on her radio show in 1938 for Armistice Day (the forerunner of Veteran's Day), according to the Library of Congress.

Middle school students had their own Veteran's Day program following the high school program.

Second Grade Program
Second graders from Paynesville Area Elementary School presented a patriotic program, "This is America: A Celebration of Our Country," last week. The second graders performed their program for the elementary students and staff on Veteran's Day and performed their musical for parents and the public in the auditorium on Wednesday, Nov. 12.

Veterans day flag Their program featured songs like "This is America," "I Love My Country," "American Tears," "Mighty United," and "The Lights of Freedom," as well as reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing "The Star Spangled Banner" with the audience.

Teacher Charlene Strand and the second grade students watch the retiring of the colors at the conclusion of their patriotic program on Wednesday, Nov. 12, in the school auditorium.

During the program, students recited lines about America's history and its freedoms, including the history of "The Star Spangled Banner" and patriotic sayings by our nation's founding fathers.

In one segment, students said that they know what it's like to be free, to be able to speak their mind, to have unlimited opportunities, to dare to dream and to be able to reach those dreams, to have opinions and to express them without fear, to be weathly, to have friends, to be educated, to pray, and to choose.

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