Humbled By The Company

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We stood in the auditorium, humbled by the company. Payson’s brave, active, supportive veterans community once again put on a good show on Thursday, drawing about 300 people to a Veterans Day ceremony to thank those who have served.

We pledged and prayed and listened and smiled during the event, feeling all so very grateful and appreciative.

The auditorium was full of gray heads, some of them World War II combat veterans leaning on canes when they stood. They were everyday folks, the sort you see around town all the time.

But it wasn’t until the Payson Classic Auto Club read off the names and service of the World War II and Korean vets they were taking to lunch that the full impact of that event hit home.

The veterans who live so quietly among us and stood silently for this brief moment of appreciation, have fought in all of the modern wars that have shaped and sheltered our nation. They have seen awful things, suffered terrible losses and done things unthinkable in any place save a battlefield.

The roll call of their battles was stunning — Pearl Harbor, Khe Sahn, Guadalcanal, Chosin Reservoir, Midway, Baghdad.

The names of the battles flicker past. Ask your average young person on the streets of Payson to tell you something about the Chosin Reservoir or Midway or Khe Sahn and they’ll likely give you a blank stare. But go to the history books and read the details — the overwhelming odds, the awful casualties, the freezing cold, the terrible courage. It leaves you stunned — humbled by the company.

So we said our thank yous — but it’s not enough. Not nearly.

Those heroes continue to pay a terrible price to defend this nation. Four soldiers won Medals of Honor in Iraq — three when they could have jumped clear but jumped atop grenades to save their comrades. One hauled wounded squad mates to safety then returned to cover the evacuation of the wounded — dying as he held off a far larger attacking force with a machine gun.

One survey found that a dismaying 36 percent of Iraq veterans reported serious mental health challenges six months after their return, including post-traumatic stress, depression and alcoholism.

But at least on Thursday, the veterans in that auditorium perhaps got a small measure of the gratitude they’ve earned. In the end, we can only agree with Mayor Kenny Evans, who said we cannot do enough, say enough, thank them enough. All that we who have not paid that price can do in return is to not waste and liberty they risked all to secure.

Board’s assertiveness welcomed

We congratulate the Payson school board members for asserting themselves as teachers across the district developed this year’s performance pay plans. The amount at stake — about $780 — isn’t huge, and falls far below the amounts at stake during previous years. Nevertheless, we applaud the school board for identifying that last year’s goals were inadequate.

We also congratulate them for proactively discussing their desires in September — months in advance so teachers had time to prepare goals that met the board’s expectations. Last year, the board approved goals they didn’t really like because a looming December deadline made revisions impossible.

This year, members were pleasantly surprised with goals that increased in response to their discussions. Perhaps next year, the board could discuss the plans at its October meeting so it can request revisions if necessary.

We welcome this newfound assertiveness from a board that all too often accepts proposals as-is and hardly ever initiates changes on its own.

We hope this sudden take-charge attitude signals the board’s determination to get more involved as the district deals with difficult choices during the next year.

And maybe the board can take this newfound boldness and tackle some of the district’s tougher issues such as its high dropout and teen pregnancy rates, which are intertwined. Payson schools face profound challenges as the year progresses with budget cuts and increased poverty. But as board members, you can truly make a difference.

Increasing performance pay goals alone will make teachers work that much smarter to make sure students achieve.

Just think about the difference you made by looking a little more closely, asking a few more questions and pointing out the unacceptable.

So, good job Payson school board. Keep it up.

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