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home : current news : current news July 22, 2018

11/14/2017 11:52:00 AM
Sisters honors military veterans
Jay Wilkins was the guest speaker at the Veterans Day Breakfast and Assembly at Sisters High School. photo by Jerry Baldock
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Jay Wilkins was the guest speaker at the Veterans Day Breakfast and Assembly at Sisters High School. photo by Jerry Baldock

By Craig Rullman

Sisters students saluted the community's military veterans in recognition of Veterans Day last week.

On Thursday, November 9, Sisters High School opened its doors to local veterans for the annual Veteran's Day Assembly. Beginning with a breakfast for veterans and their wives served by SHS Leadership students and a brief introductory welcome by principle Joe Hosang, nearly 50 veterans from all branches of service gathered to swap stories, share a few laughs, and enjoy a morning meant to inspire, educate, and remember the service and sacrifice of America's military veterans.

Brooke Robillard, an SHS Leadership student, told The Nugget: "It's really important for us to show that we honor and think of our veterans, and to show that we appreciate them."

The appreciation was warmly felt by all of the veterans, and their families, who attended.

"These are just such good kids," said Harvey Hall, a 32.5-year veteran of the U.S. Army and National Guard, who joined the military in 1968 and became a member of the famous Sky Soldiers, the 173rd Airborne, before shipping out to Vietnam. "The reason I come is because they put so much time and effort into it. In their hearts they really care, and it is appreciated."

After breakfast the veterans filed into the auditorium, joined by the SHS student body, to listen to guest speaker Jay Wilkins. Principle Joe Hosang, himself a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former machine-gunner, told the assembly: "The service members we honor today came from all walks of life, but they shared several fundamental qualities. They possessed courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity - all the qualities needed to serve a cause larger than one's self."

Hosang told the assembly that at least six SHS seniors are considering careers in the military.

"I am proud of our veterans, and I am proud that our students are willing to produce such a nice event," Hosang said.

Jay Wilkins, who served in the U.S. Army as an Apache helicopter pilot, described the path he took from ROTC at Dartmouth College, to flight school, airborne school, air assault, and ultimately Ranger school.

Wilkins focused his address on the students, with a presentation entitled, "It's Just Words." He asked the students to be clear in their decision-making, and urged them to remember a number of fundamentals for success in life after high school: work hard at school, make healthy choices, create a plan, and don't do anything stupid, he told them.

Wilkins reminded the students that the same formula applied to them all, whether they were headed for college, the military, or had other ideas for their futures.

"Give yourself the best chance to have the options you want," Wilkins told the packed auditorium.

The most important words, Wilkins told the students, are to be found in the U.S. Constitution, and Jay asked them each to "Own the 1st Amendment." By embracing the constitution, and the freedoms it protects, Wilkins said, "You will be able to exert your will on the universe, so that you can achieve your goals, and get what you want."

Wilkins, whose career was cut short by a hard landing in an Apache helicopter, transitioned from the military back to civilian life, earning his MBA from Harvard Business School, and has since worked for a number of companies, from Nike to venture-backed startups. He presently serves on the Sisters School District board, as well as the Sisters Folk Festival board of directors.

Frank Mosca, a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Army, told The Nugget of his gratitude for the Veterans Day efforts made by SHS Leadership students:

"I feel a lot of appreciation," he said. "I go fishing with these guys, they are like family, and it's great to see them all here. It's just good that the kids don't see us as salty old dogs, and are willing to open their eyes to the way things were at one point, and to see what honor and commitment look like."

Sisters Middle School honored veterans in an event later on November 9, and Sisters Elementary School hosted observances on Wednesday, November 8.

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