A brilliant blue sky and brisk temperatures greeted the hundreds of attendees at the annual Veteran’s Day ceremony at Wilson K-8 School last Wednesday.
It was a day to remember for all involved; with a flyover by two F-16 fighter jets from the 195th squadron of the Tucson Air National Guard—piloted by Wilson parents Lt. Colonel Doug “Meat” Charters and Colonel Jim “Mic” Murphy.
It was a somber reminder of the effort of veterans, both young and old. The color guard was presented by members of American Legion Oro Valley Post 132, and members of the middle school jazz band played “Taps” and “American Patrol” to honor those lost in combat.
First-year principal Christine Sullivan served as the event’s emcee, taking time to thank everyone in attendance, especially active military and veterans.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to come together for a special occasion,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan then introduced the veterans in attendance, including staff members Kyle Sutton, Sequoia Rudolph, Bobbi Jones, Wayne McGowen, Jason Stewart and Linda Wetter.
The centerpiece of last week’s ceremony was the winner of the annual essay contest, 13-year-old eighth grader Paige Watson, who read her piece, “Freedom and Courage.”
Watson, with friends and family in attendance, spent the majority of her five minutes on stage praising those who serve, and in taking solace in their efforts to keep us safe at home.
Watson, who’s participated in the essay competition each of her three middle school years, also finished second two years ago.
“Veterans Day is an annual event where we put aside our business to read, reflect and honor the immeasurable by our veterans in defense of our liberties,” she said. “We express our sorrow and pride for their sacrifice. We talk about hard subjects, such as war and death, and pause to mourn and celebrate those that have been lost, and those that are living that carry the lasting effects of war daily.”
Watson’s well-aware of the effects that serving can have on veterans, with her grandfather, Garry Jenkins serving as her main inspiration.
Her main goal in entering her speech, she said, was to make veterans feel as if they’re appreciated and loved, which is nothing new, according to her parents, Jenny and Darren.
“I read (her speech) probably a day before she turned it in actually, but Paige has been talking like this for a while,” Darren said. “As a matter of fact, she told me this morning that she really didn’t write this to win. She wrote it because of the veterans and the way that she feels about them.”
Watson mentioned in her speech how patriotic her family is, and how much the flag represents to her parents, who she said are always at their local polling place at 6 a.m., dressed in red, white and blue.
Her words on Wednesday left dry eyes few and far between, with her grandmother, Martha Jenkins, struggling to contain her emotions.
Jenkins, like so many in attendance, summed up Paige’s speech, and the point of the ceremony as a whole, in a tidy sentence.
“Well there’s just no words,” Jenkins said. “Like I say, tears tell my words, and I cried when I first read this.”