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Goddard High honors generations of military personnel

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From left, U.S. Army Pvt. April Castillo and Sgt. William Green fold a flag Thursday during a ceremony honoring veterans in the gymnasium at Robert H. Goddard High School. (Alex Ross Photo)

The gymnasium at Robert H. Goddard High School erupted in thunderous applause and displays of patriotism Thursday, as the students and faculty honored generations of American military personnel.

With students and faculty in the rafters and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” resonating from the speakers, scores of veterans along with current and military personnel were greeted with cheers as they entered the gymnasium.

The ceremony has become an annual tradition each Veterans Day for the last 13 years. The occasion was characterized by patriotic fervor, chants of “USA,” as well as video, songs and words of praise for those who served their country in uniform.

Hayden Hill, a longtime coach at Goddard, said after the ceremony he and a local Vietnam War veteran first established the ceremony as a way to express appreciation to veterans and connect them to young people.

“We wanted to honor the veterans, and in turn, we also wanted to show veterans that there are also a lot of good kids in America that are patriotic and our future is going to be fine,” Hill said.

He added that each year since the event began, support has increased to the point where this year, he did not even have to ask for volunteers needed to help out with the celebration.

“It’s kind of just building and building,” he said.

Brian Luck, principal at Goddard told the crowd the ceremony is a big deal and has had the intended effect of bridging the generation gap. He said that some of the veterans in the audience have never been told “thank you” for their military service, have been dishonored and that some of those who are older might not be coming back next year.

“What we show these people today is what they are going to think of your generation,” Luck said.

Dr. Ann Lynn Mcllroy, superintendent of the Roswell Independent School District, led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. The Goddard High Stargazers also sang several patriotic songs.

At one point, Luck gave a short synopsis of every conflict from World War I to the War on Terror, asking each veteran present to stand up if they served during that conflict.

The audience singled out one veteran for a special honor: Lowell Hughes — a 100-year-old World War II veteran who helped liberate the infamous Dachau Concentration Camp — was presented with applause and a patriotic flower arrangement.

Luck said that not too many years ago, there would be at least one veteran from World War I who would be at the ceremony for praise.

Luck also spoke of the Christmas Truce that took place on Christmas Eve of 1914, when the Germans amid the chaos of war were putting up a Christmas tree and began singing “Silent Night” in German. The allies then joined the singing.

For a short time, both sides came together in neutral territory known as “No Man’s Land” and put down their weapons, Luck said.

“There they ate, exchanged gifts, buried the dead and even played soccer,” he added.

Just as those two warring sides amid a war that shook the world to its core merely a century ago briefly put their differences aside in a show of unity, at Luck’s urging, everyone in the Goddard High gymnasium broke out into a rendition of “Silent Night,” with the gymnasium plunged into darkness and lit by little more than the lights of cellphones.

People will be able to honor veterans at this year’s Veterans Day parade organized by the American Legion Post 28. Parade participants will gather at about 8:30 a.m. at the Wool Bowl on North Grand Avenue.

The parade will then kick off at 9 a.m., running south on North Grand Avenue before turning west onto East College Boulevard. It will then proceed left onto Main Street and conclude on Fifth and Main streets at the Veteran’s Memorial on the lawn of the Chaves County Court House.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.