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Middle School honors veterans

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By Tom Wilmoth

Bedford Middle School took time out Monday to honor this community's veterans with its "Take a Veteran to School Day."

Several local veterans participated in the event, including Robert Monk, the school's resource officer, who also was a corporal in the United States Marine Corps. Monk served as the emcee for the program.

Also participating was GySgt. Michael Wilson, who has served three tours in Iraq with the Marine Corps. Wilson is preparing to deploy for a fourth tour and his son, Michael, attends the school. His son gave an overview of the history of why this nation stops on Veterans Day to honor its military service personnel.

Bedford Mayor Skip Tharp and Bedford County School Superintendent Dr. James Blevins spoke to the students, urging them to remember veterans.

"One of the great freedoms that you have today is your ability to get an education," Blevins told the students.

And the students were urged to remember the service men and women who did not return home, after going out to serve.

Veterans representing World War II through the current war in Iraq were honored at the event, including Master Sergeant Robert Mayne, a veteran who served in World War II.

Mayne was 19 when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He served on a B-26 bomber as a gunner in the European Theater, flying some 70 missions about the aircraft known as the Flying Coffin or Widow Maker because of its propensity to be shot down. Mayne told the students that some 68,000 men lost their lives in the air war alone in WWII. On his 50th mission, he was shot down.

For his service, Mayne received the Distinguished Flying Cross, 11 air medals and the Presidential Unit Citation.

Col. Charles Kitts also spoke to the students. Kitts served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1996. That service included two tours in Vietnam. He earned two Bronze Stars and the Legion of Merit.

He thanked the students for having such a program, reminding them that when the veterans of Vietnam returned home, no such ceremonies were held in their honor. His wife, Laura Kitts, is an eighth grade world history teacher at BMS and put together the program.

Monk shared some memories from his service in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, which at that time stood up against Iraq's aggression into neighboring Kuwait. Monk said he arrived for service in the operation on Christmas Day in 1990 and recounted seeing the sky "light up like a lightening storm" when the air war against Iraq began. He went on to say that there were memories he took away from that service ? some which he's shared and some which he hasn't.

Monk then introduced Staff Master Sergeant Donald Dougherty, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, to share his experiences. Dougherty served in the U.S. Air Force from 1984 to 2006, working on aircraft maintenance, including in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

GySGt. Wilson, who attended the middle school as a youth, was the last to share. "What we do, we do for you," Wilson said.

He said he goes to Iraq because he's told to go. "That's my job," he said.

He said the Iraqi people he's met want the United States there. "They want what we have," he said of this nation's freedoms. "We're trying to spread freedom and democracy through the rest of the world."

Monk presented the veterans who shared with a gift and the Bedford Middle School Band performed an Armed Services Medley. A video honoring the veterans was played towards the end of the program.

Monk also took time to honor the veterans who didn't return from battle. "Our friends, our brothers and sisters in arms that are missing in action or paid that ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives, will forever be remembered by veterans as heroes," he said. An empty chair was placed on the stage throughout the program in their honor.