Students at the Pine School gave six veterans a belated Veterans Day hug of appreciation on Friday, Nov. 18.
Members of the Payson Honor Guard, Sgt. Bud Huffman, Cmdr. Ken Caldwell and Cmdr. Bob Walker presented the U.S., Arizona and POW flags. Sgt. Larry Moore played Taps for the children at the school assembly.
Kathy Reiger and Walter Staub sat with the Guard in a place of honor at the head of the assembly. Staub’s 13-year-old granddaughter, Brittney Staub, helped to organize the assembly with fellow student council members.
“I came from Camp Verde to be here,” said the senior Staub.
At the beginning of the assembly, each class from preschool to the eighth grade stood up to present a poem, sing a song or hold up a banner for the veterans.
The Pine School student government performed two short plays. One about what it means to be a veteran, the other about the role the U.S. flag played in American history. Then an all-school choir sang a patriotic song.
Jan Clark, a secretary at the school, has organized this celebration for the last four years. Her husband, currently the principal at the school, spent 26 years in the Army — her son three years.
“I started this program four years ago to honor the military. When my husband came home from Vietnam, he was spat upon. Things have turned around since then. I just want to keep that up,” said Clark.
Clark plans this event after the actual Veterans Day because she knows the Payson Honor Guard’s schedule books up for the holiday.
The Honor Guard started in 2002 to perform military funerals since there aren’t enough active duty personnel to perform services.
The group finds members at the American Legion, Marine Corps League and the VFW to join the Honor Guard. The Department of Defense has certified the group, enabling them to perform a funeral or present flags anywhere in the United States.
“Any discharged personnel may request a military funeral. We also do ceremonies for the young people,” said Moore.
During the ceremony, veterans introduced themselves, told the children how many years and what branch of the military they served in.
After the assembly, the vets stayed to answer questions and shake hands.
“Children are the next generation to go into the military. It’s good for the kids to see vets in their uniform,” said Moore.