KINGSPORT — Colonial Heights Middle School and the whole Sullivan South High School zone marked Veterans Day a little early this year by inviting a guest speaker and veterans to CHMS for a program and free breakfast.
Afterward, students and their families had photographs made with their veteran by Gate City-based PhotoGenius.
The Sullivan South Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFJROTC) presented a program on Iwo Jima, which the cadets repeated later in the day at Miller Perry and Rock Springs elementary schools.
Members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, the latter of which had no one in attendance, were recognized during the ceremony.
Veterans Day started out as Armistice Day to mark the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, the 100th anniversary of which will be Sunday.
The Iwo Jima presentation, re-enacting the iconic image of six servicemen planting an American flag on the Japanese Island, included narrator Maddi Kitto and re-enactors Liam Clare, Weston Davis, Nathan Davis, Jacob Smith, Lucas Murdock and Adam Bays.
The guest speaker, Wings Air Rescue air ambulance flight paramedic Chris Chafin, served as a staff sergeant in the Air Force from 2002 to 2008. He was Airman of the Year in 2004 and Airman of the Quarter in 2003. He served during Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq. He also has headed Washington County/Johnson City Emergency Medical Services and has participated in Federal Emergency Management Agency deployments to North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.
He said Veterans Day is for “not only being able to eat free at the Golden Corral” or to take advantage of store sales but is all about the U.S. flag and the veterans who have worked more than 200 years for what it represents. He told students the flag was established by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, with 13 alternating red and white stripes and 13 white stars on a blue background in the upper left corner representing the original 13 colonies.
Most historical accounts credit Betsy Ross, who sewed the first flag, with its design, but Francis Hopkins also might have had a part in the design.
The assembly watched a video called “My Name is Old Glory,” the audio of which Chafin said he heard in Air Force boot camp. He said he tracked down the video to show his two daughters what the flag really means as it has survived more than 200 years of war on U.S. soil, including the Civil War, and around the world.
He challenged students always to be respectful of the flag and show respect when the national anthem is played. “The Star Spangled Banner,” the creation of Francis Scott Key, recounts how the flag survived a battle during the War of 1812.
Assistant Principal Les Simerly and Principal Bill Dunham spoke at the ceremony. Simerly thanked the South AFJROTC, CHMS band and choir, veteran and special education teacher and coach Adam Slaughter and other faculty and staff for helping with the event.