Byron Middle School honors veterans

awoolen@macon.comNovember 13, 2013 

BYRON -- Every veteran has a story.

Some can be told through medals on the uniforms. Others cannot be told without shedding a tear.

At the Veterans Day ceremony at Byron Middle School on Friday, the speaker shared stories about people he lost and those who continue to serve.

“I’ve got happy stories and sad stories, tragic stories,” said retired Chief Master Sgt. James “Andy” Rodriguez, of Warner Robins.

Rodriguez is the former chief of wing readiness, 116th Air Control Wing at Robins Air Force Base.

His stories about getting calls from his “bros” who were in a war zone, complete with the sound effects of machine guns, held the audience of military veterans, students and staff captive.

He said the Air Force “made me the person I am today.”

His picture from the program, where he is in his dress blues, is different than his current look with a long white beard and a braid down his back.

The last time Rodriguez cut his hair and shaved his face was in May 2005 when he was a pallbearer for a friend’s military funeral.

The longer his hair gets, he knows that none of his friends have died, Rodriguez said.

Byron Middle has had a Veterans Day program for five years, said Principal Jeffrey Bell, who is retired from the Air Force.

Twenty-five students and five teachers at the school have military ties.

Retried Air Force Master Sgt. Scott Gunn played the bagpipe to open the program. Gunn is a teacher at Hunt Elementary School.

Closing out the ceremony was retired Air Force Maj. Tim Baggerly, who played “Taps” while the lights were out in the gymnasium.

About 50 veterans attended the program including Wayne Lettice, who retired from the Air Force, and his son Darrell Lettice, who is in the Air Force Reserve. Darrell Lettice’s daughter Maggie Lettice is a student at Byron Middle.

Wayne Lettice thought the hourlong program, which concluded with a luncheon, was important.

“It’s a tradition and heritage to pass on,” he said.

Lettice remembered watching World War II and Korean War veterans march during Veterans Day parades and wondered why they seemed happy to be marching.

“It’s a brotherhood,” he said. “One team.”

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