BYRON — Students and family members celebrated Veterans Day at Byron Middle School with a lunch and a special presentation.
The sixth-graders at the school hosted “Invite a Veteran to Lunch” day. At least 20 veterans attended the event as guests of the students, said Sara Mason, community/parent liaison for Peach County schools.
The event included language arts poetry appreciation lessons in conjunction with social studies classes focusing on World War I and World War II, Tommie Nunley, sixth-grade language arts and social studies teacher, wrote in an e-mail.
Nunley said the event sprang from her love for Lt. Col. John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Field,” which she read during the ceremony.
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Nunley’s father served 22 years in the Navy, and her brother currently is serving in South Korea with the Air Force.
“It really snowballed out of the love of that poem and what it means to my father,” Nunley said.
At the event, students recited patriotic poems, both original and written by others.
Cassidy Jeffers recited her poem called “War Flowers.”
“Flowers, they can grow after the summer rain,” Jeffers said. “Men die for reasons so that others can gain.”
Ty’keria Jones presented her poem, “As I Stand.”
“As I stand on this battlefield, I see broken hearts everywhere, soldiers buried here and there,” Jones said. “As I stand on this battlefield, I ask only one question: Why?”
Byron native Robert Phillips, who was inducted into the French Legion of Honor in August, was the guest of honor at Wednesday’s event. Phillips served in the European theater with the 320th Infantry Regiment, landing in Normandy shortly after D-Day.
School resource officer Timothy Hardy, who served in the Air Force for 27 1/2 and attained the rank of lieutenant colonel, read a poem called “The Same Canteen” by Pvt. Miles O’Reilly, a Union soldier during the Civil War. Hardy’s father, who served 30 years in the Air Force and earned the rank of colonel, wrote his own concluding verse about a year before he died of lung cancer at the age of 85.
Superintendent Susan Clark also acknowledged her father is a World War II veteran. In addition, one of her sons is a veteran in Operation Desert Storm, and another currently is in Afghanistan, serving his third tour in the Middle East.
“The main thing (my father) taught me was love for the country ... love and respect for the United States,” she said.
Byron Middle School band director Elizabeth Chancellor invited her parents, Connie and Lomus, to the event. Lomus served in the Navy for three years from 1951 to 1954 as a torpedoman’s mate second class and fought in the Korean War. Afterward, he worked at Robins Air Force Base for 34 years.
“I feel honored I was able to serve in the Navy,” Lomus said. “I feel more patriotic ... by having served.”
For lunch, students and guests ate turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy, green beans, rolls and cake in the cafeteria.
Principal Annette Ross said it was appropriate that students and family members were celebrating Thanksgiving and Veterans Day together.
“We want to show gratitude for the men and women in the armed forces,” said Ross.
Ross commended the students who participated in the event.
“Today was wonderful. The students at Byron Middle School did an outstanding job of saluting the veterans,” Ross said. “It’s usually a holiday, but what a wonderful learning experience.”
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.