November 11, 2014 4:15PM
Pittsburg sixth graders looking for role models didn’t have to look far, Tuesday. They were all around them.
The students, veterans and their families packed the Kansas Army National Guard Armory gym at Pittsburg State University for the annual Veterans Day observance. Because of unusually cold weather, the event was moved indoors from the PSU Veterans Memorial adjacent to the armory.
The observance was both an opportunity to honor veterans and also a civics lesson for the students.
Quoting President John F. Kennedy, PSU President Steve Scott reminded those assembled that Armistice Day is a celebration of the end of war.
“Think about that for a moment,” Scott said. “Veterans Day is a celebration of peace and a time to remember those who gave so much to ensure that peace.”
Veterans from every era share something in common, the president said.
“They left their homes and families not because they wanted to fight, but because they wanted peace,” Scott said. “They were willing to do whatever it took, even to the point of giving their lives, to protect the peace and the freedoms that we citizens too often take for granted.”
Scott told the group that the nearby Veterans Memorial teaches many lessons.
“This is one of the lessons that the memorial teaches us,” Scott said. “In a world that seems to be perpetually in turmoil, our freedoms, our democracy, our peace at home depends on citizens who are willing to sacrifice to ensure that those principles we hold dear endure.”
One of those who served, Timothy Simpson, followed President Scott to the podium. Simpson, an Army veteran and former member of the 10th Mountain Division Light Infantry, served two tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. An Independence High School and Neosho County Community College graduate, Simpson today is an assistant basketball coach and supervises the in-school suspension program at Pittsburg Community Middle School.
Simpson said Veterans Day has special meaning to him.
“Generally, Veterans Day was somewhat of a sad day for me, because it reminded me that I’m here and a lot of my fellow soldiers are not,” Simpson said. “I thought about their families. But today, seeing all of you, it reminds me of something else. It reminds me of hope. No matter what, there’s always hope. If you put the things that are important to you first, such as God and your family, there’s always hope.”
Simpson said his Army service has been an important part of an amazing life journey that he couldn’t have predicted.
“I never thought in a million years I would have gone down the road that I’ve gone down,” he said. “I would have never thought in a million years I would have had the type of experiences I’ve had. I had the unbelievable pleasure of serving with a lot of men and women in the United States Army. It’s amazing the type of journey that life will take you on that you’re not prepared to have.”
He told the students that they, too, had the potential for an amazing journey ahead of them.
“I look at all of you and I see something great,” Simpson said. “The only thing you have to do now is believe it yourself.”
In addition to remarks from President Scott and Simpson, the observance included recognition of the veterans for whom new pavers have been installed in the Veterans Memorial and recognition of all veterans in attendance as their service anthems were played.
Also on the program, LTC Kenneth Hutchison, chairman of the PSU Department of Military Science, talked about the history of Veterans Day and CPT Chad Murrow explained the tradition of the song “Taps” and served as the master of ceremonies. CPT John Close explained the Fallen Soldier Memorial and cadets from the PSU ROTC Gorilla Battalion posted the colors. The Rev. Jim Sukraw provided the invocation and benediction, PSU student Wyatt Smith played “Taps” and other music was provided by the St. Mary’s Elementary School sixth graders and band.