One could hear a pin drop when the Havelock High School NJROTC Color Guard marched into the gymnasium at Graham A. Barden Elementary School.
The entire school gathered last week for its annual Veterans Day Program in which members of all branches of the armed services were honored.
It’s not surprising that the young students paid such attention, since nearly two-thirds of them have parents in the military.
“We know that our students are connected to the military,” said Principal Marilyn Brown. “We have at least 65 percent of our students with military families so we wanted to show the children how much we appreciate their families as well.”
Most of the children understand what it’s like to have a parent deployed overseas.
“This is a military town and we appreciate the military for everything they do,” Brown said. “Not only do they support our country, but they support our schools, so we want to honor them as much as possible to let the students know that we love them as well as their parents.”
Navy Hospital Corpsman second class Kelly Wimberly was among several active-duty military personnel who attended in uniform.
“I got that these kids understand what we go through and that they like showing support for our military personnel,” Wimberly said. “Whether their parents are military personnel or not, they are happy that we are serving our country and that they live in a free country.”
Wimberly spent a lot of time taking pictures of his children, who were part of the program.
“I enjoyed the NJROTC stuff and the whole program was outstanding,” Wimberly said. “It teaches them about respect mainly. The more that they respect people who are authority figures the more they will be an asset in life.”
Marine Sgt. Christopher J. Kettler, of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 14 at Cherry Point, was among those who participated in the program.
“The school definitely supports us in everything we do and we feel it. It helps a lot,” Kettler said. “We can’t do our jobs without the support that we get from the community around here and it makes a huge difference. They support us in everything that we do and we’re grateful for that.”
Kettler has children in first grade and kindergarten at the school.
Jonathan Moores, who serves at the U.S. Coast Guard Fort Macon Search and Rescue Station, has a child in the school and was also in the program.
“It’s really nice to know that the people like our job that we do and what we give back to the community,” Moores said. “It’s really nice to see that they think of us that way. I think it’s a history thing. It’s good to know that the faculty and the teachers are teaching the kids the history that goes behind our forces and everything.”
Thomas Hicks, a hospital corpsman third class, was also in uniform and participated in the program with his daughter.
“She did great. I was very proud of her. I enjoyed it,” he said.
Hicks called participating in the program an honor.
“I’m not Thomas Hicks. I’m a symbol for the Navy, so it’s an honor,” Hicks said. “I’ve only been in the Navy for a couple of years, so I know that the honor and respect that I get isn’t because of something that I’ve done as much as the ones that have gone before us.”
Brown said the program went off without a hitch.
“I am so proud of our military that I wanted them to see how much we really appreciate them,” Brown said. “My husband was in the military for 10 years. We continue to see their sacrifices and then the ultimate sacrifice every day.”