Laney Wyatt

Tahlequah Middle School student Laney Wyatt sings the veterans version of Hallelujah at the Tahlequah Performing Arts Center during a Veterans Day program.

Students in Tahlequah are showing their appreciation for U.S. military veterans, as Tahlequah Public Schools are hosting Veterans Day programs throughout the week.

Tahlequah Middle School held its program at the Performing Arts Center Wednesday, and students, parents, and veterans gathered to honor members of the armed forces. It began with Tahlequah High School JROTC conducting color guard duties and included performances by the TMS choir.

Throughout the assembly, veterans were honored in a variety of ways. Students sang the armed service songs from each military branch: "Anchors Aweigh," for the U.S. Navy; "The Caissons Go Rolling Along," for the U.S. Army; "The Marines' Hymn," for the U.S. Marine Corps; "The Wild Blue Yonder," for the U.S. Air Force; and "Semper Paratus," for the U.S. Coast Guard.

As veterans heard their branch songs, they stood up to the applause of students and teachers.

Maj. Quinten Tibbetts, who has two children attending TMS, said it was "a very respectful program."

"They did a good job," he said. "I think it's good that these kids get to take time to honor veterans, and I think they get to learn kind of what it means to serve your country."

The names of all the veterans in attendance were read aloud, and the National Junior Honor Society, who helped coordinate the event, created a slideshow of the vets who couldn't make it. The four officers of TMS's NJHS - Matthew Talburt, Daily Molloy, Natalie Edwards, and Arianna Santana - all have family members who are or were once in the military.

Matthew, NJHS vice president, has an uncle in the military and said everyone should take time to thank service members, because, "if it weren't for them we wouldn't be here."

"Even if I didn't have a family member in it, everyone in the U.S. should be proud, because people fought for them," said Matthew.

Although the U.S. once used the Selective Service System to draft citizens into the military, the system has long been tossed to the side.

NJHS President Arianna said it's important to honor all veterans, but pointed out that the U.S. military doesn't need to have draft system in place anymore.

"It's really important to honor the veterans," she said. "They went out and risked their lives for us, knowing that in some other countries they're forced into the military, and then you come to the U.S., and these people are risking their lives on their account."

Teachers did not have to worry about inappropriate behavior from students. The entire group sat quietly, but applauded loudly when veterans were singled out for recognition. Capt. Josh Hamilton, eighth-grade science teacher at TMS, spoke during the program last year, and said it's important that kids learn about expressing patriotism.

"In a place where we're so diversified - everything is trying to split everybody up - it's great to have some unity and patriotism brings us together," Hamilton said. "I think that's really key, especially for our kids to experience."

The last song performed by the TMS choir was "God Bless the USA." Near the end of the song, veterans in the crowd began to stand in a display of support for the country and its military. Tibbetts said the moment struck a chord with students.

"I think you'll notice as they're singing that last song, you got students with tears in their eyes," he said. "They're seeing these veterans stand up. I think that moves them and I think they definitely understand the idea of what it takes to be free and the sacrifices these guys made."

What's next

Tahlequah High School and Heritage Elementary School will host a Veterans Day program Thursday. Greenwood Elementary School and Central Academy will host programs Friday.

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