If you want to know what Veteran’s Day means, watch a soldier salute.
Witness the arm. Crisp snap upward, precise elbow bend, right hand over right eyebrow.
Watch the hand. It won’t falter, no matter how wrinkled the skin, nor pronounced the veins. It will maintain a proud, perfect angle.
See the face. Chin up, muscles tight, solemn, sincere.
Admire the posture. Shoulders back, chest out, each well-trained vertebrae snapped into place directly above the other.
Wednesday, during an emotional tribute to veterans at Appleton North High School, we had the opportunity to witness the salutes and honor the veterans who have earned the right to make them.
They came from all branches of the military – some long retired, some still actively employed. They stood while the North Choir sang the National Anthem and then listened as they performed Flander’s Fields. If the veterans looked closely, they saw one of their own in the front row of the choir — Alyssa Gruender, a high school senior and proud member of the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.
They heard the Honors Orchestra play a medley of Civil War songs and then, as the Honors Band played the Armed Forces Salute, members stood and the audience applauded through each military branch’s anthem.
Between musical numbers, North Drama Club members re-enacted letters from home, actual pieces of mail written by participants in wars ranging from the Civil War through the War in Iraq.
There was a moment of silence to honor the fallen, followed by Band Director Jim Thaldorf ‘s haunting rendition of Taps.
The presenting and retiring of the colors bookended the ceremony, hosted by North Principal James Huggins, a Marine Corps veteran of the Persian Gulf War.
If you want to know what Veteran’s Day means, watch a soldier salute. And, if you want to know what a high school student thinks Veteran’s Day means, watch an auditorium full of dignified students celebrate freedom and the honored guests among them.
Here is what happened in the auditorium when the band played Armed Forces Salute:
And here’s the North choir singing Flander’s Fields (with apologies for the poor video quality):