By David L. Bell, Director of Public Relations, Chambers County School District

LaFAYETTE – Two local elementary schools held special programs this week to honor the men and women in our community who have bravely served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The programs were coordinated by teachers and students,featuring words of appreciation and patriotic music.

The first tribute was conducted Thursday afternoon at Langdale Auditorium, presented by fifth-grade students at LaFayette Lanier Elementary School. Guest speaker for the event was Air Force Reserve Lt. Colonel Jamey Wright, a local native and 1995 graduate of Valley High School.

“I determined at the age of five that I wanted to be a pilot,” Wright told the crowd. “After graduating high school, I attended Auburn University under the ROTC program, and later flew the first night mission of “Iraqi Freedom” in late 2001.”

Wright served 14 tours of duty in the Middle East, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan. He currently flies C-130 cargo planes as a squad leader, and will soon transition to civilian life with a position at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“I want you to always remember the three core values in life: Integrity, service before self, and excellence in all you do,” Wright said to students. “If you always apply these principles to your life, you will achieve success.”

Friday morning, students at Fairfax Elementary saluted veterans with a tribute of their own. Former servicemen and women were treated to a reception in the school cafeteria before moving to the gymnasium, where they were seated together as students expressed their appreciation through words and song.

Guest speaker for the Fairfax event was Gary Harris, former U.S. Army Reservist who served as a member of the Army Band. A native of Cullman, AL, Harris was a high school band director for many years prior to accepting his current position as Minister of Music at Langdale United Methodist Church

“Every veteran, regardless of where or how they served, is equally deserving of our gratitude for the role they played in protecting our freedom,” said Harris. “We are all thankful for their selfless sacrifice on land, sea, and in the air.”

“Some of you may one day decide to serve your country by joining the military. It’s probably the most noble thing you could do,” Harris said to students. “But whatever you choose to do in life, it’s important to do it well. Listen to your teachers, and they will help prepare you for success.”

At the conclusion of the program, students stood and waved American flags during a musical rendition of “Thank You Soldier,” as shown in the attached photo.

“It’s important for our students to learn and appreciate the role of our military in keeping our country safe and free,” said Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. “Much preparation and effort goes into these programs honoring our veterans, and we are thankful for the dedication of students and teachers alike for their patriotic salutes.”

Veterans Day will officially be recognized as a national holiday on Monday, November 11.