Choir director Lisa Gillespie told the sea of students seated in the courtyard to look to their left and wave to the rows of men and women seated there, “and realize those are the people we are honoring today,” she said. “We’re not honoring the choir, even though we’re looking at them; we’re honoring our service men and women.”
Kitty Stone teacher Lynn Hedgepath and parent Lauren Hobbs each have sons who are currently deployed in the Middle East and read poems dedicated to their sons.
The Kitty Stone Singers, joined by members of the Jacksonville State University brass and percussion ensemble, sang the Armed Forces Salute, recognizing veterans of each branch of the military as representatives presented the flags of each.
A weathered flag took center stage as Jacksonville High School’s Gene Rhodes told its story.
Rhodes, who taught Sgt. Ben Tomlinson English, said the 24-year-old veteran was recognized throughout his high school years for his leadership ability and after joining the Marines, served with distinction. He described for the students the words duty, honor and courage and told the students Tomlinson embodies each of these. He said courage “allows people to face difficult times— dangers in life or pain—without fear.”
The day Tomlinson shipped out to serve his country in Afghanistan, the Boyles family began flying the weathered flag on their front porch and never took down until Robin Boyles waved it in the city square as huge crowds welcomed Tomlinson home. Boyles presented the flag to Tomlinson at the ceremony. “Their family is very special to us,” she said. “We flew it to honor him and as our patriotic duty.”