Local military veterans were honored Thursday morning at Southeast High School in Cherokee, and Southeast students were challenged to “do something with your life that makes all of the sacrifices worth it.”
In what has become an annual tradition at SHS, veterans and their spouses living in the area were treated with a brunch by the Southeast FCCLA chapter, and recognized for their service at an assembly attended by all Southeast Junior High and Southeast High School students, and included performances by the SJHS and SHS Choir and the 8th Grade and SHS Band.
“Today we come together to honor men and women who answered their country’s call to duty,” SHS Principal Larry Malle said. “They willingly sacrificed and accepted the responsibility to defend the ideals of this great nation – a responsibility that took them far from home and many times placed them in harms way.”
Once again the speaker was Sgt. Jared Harlan, a graduate of Northeast High School and has served 7 ½ years in the Kansas National Guard. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 as part of a security force for an Agribusiness Development Team and served as a combat engineer, focusing on route clearing, infantry style operations and explosives.
“It’s a huge honor for me to be here in front of these guys,” Sgt. Harlan told the students, pointing to the 27 veterans attending the event, “because I used to be in your seat listening to these guys give speeches.”
In addition to thanking the veterans for their service, Sgt. Harlan also thanked their spouses, several of whom attended as well.
“We get all of the accolades for being great heroes but they keep everything going when we’re not home. It takes a lot and all of those responsibilities fall on them.”
“We sacrifice a lot of our time – our time – time with our families, time with our kids, in an opportunity to give you guys the freedom to do whatever you want with your life. You guys can do literally anything you want with your life, a privilege that not everyone has.
“We’ve all seen the other side of the coin – we’ve been to those places where people don’t have a choice. You guys have a choice of whether or not you join the military. Most of you don’t, and that’s fine, but do something productive with your life.
“I’ve been to countries where people don’t have a choice. Little kids your size (looking at junior high kids), they don’t have a choice. They train at your age. I’m not saying this to scare you or intimidate you, that’s just the world we live in guys. Our sacrifices allow you to do whatever you want.
“It’s very very difficult to join in a time of war because you know where you’re going in time of war. After 9/11 everyone knew where they were going. We’re in a moment of peace time but we still need you. Still needs guards at the gate because the enemy is going to keep knocking.
“I make it a goal every time I go somewhere to thank these guys, because it is an honor. There is nothing more fulfilling that you are ever going to do in your life than put on a uniform and do something to serve other people. You will never find anything more rewarding than that – I challenge you to try. Try. Try to do something.
“If you do something for other people no matter what it is, military service, go work at a Salvation Army, go work at a food kitchen, just to put a smile on somebody else’s face. Seeing kids that we freed up – we’d go into a town, and giving little kids a piece of candy to us means nothing, but to them it’s everything. It’s an opportunity.
“That’s what this day is for you – it’s a day of reflection for all the sacrifices that were made, for all the people in World War I and the Revolutionary War – the sacrifices that have been made to get where we are at. That’s why we do Veterans Day and, again, it’s an honor to be speaking to these guys because they have seen some horrors that I don’t want to see.
“Consider some kind of service when you get out – military, community, do something with your life. Do something with your life that makes all of the sacrifices worth it.”
Following Sgt. Harlan’s speech, Principal Malle specifically mentioned two veterans who were unable to attend – Randy Bole and Michael James Sullivan.
Mr. Bole was a member of the Cherokee American Legion and had been a longtime supporter of the Veterans Day Assembly at SHS. Mr. Bole passed away this past April.
Sullivan graduated Southeast in 1964 and was killed during the Vietnam War. He is the only known Lancer to have been killed in action.
“Through word and song, it is our sincere hope that we have honored each of you for your service and sacrifice,” Principal Malle concluded. “As a community, we embrace our responsibility to bridge the past and future, while helping to transfer tradition between generations.”
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