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WATER VALLEY – The nation’s 18 million-plus living veterans and millions more who have passed on were honored across the country during the Nov. 11 Veteran’s Day celebration. In Water Valley the recognition spanned the halls and classrooms at Water Valley High School and Davidson Elementary School. Members of VFW Post 4100 also organized the annual observance with Representative Tommy Reynolds expressing the debt owed to the United State’s veterans.
Honorees at the high school included four veterans employed by the district who made their mark in history before their career in education. The group included coach Jason Purdy, who served in the Army and National Guard for 16 years including a tour of duty in Iraq; teacher Michael Howland, who served in the Army for 24 years and seven months, a career that spanned multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan during Desert Shield/Desert Storm; Principal Drew Pitcock, who served three years in the Army; and custodian Larry Brassell, who served in the Marines and was a POW in Vietnam.
“Today we celebrate each of them and thank them for leaving their homes and families to serve our country. We thank you for the sacrifices and contributions you made for our freedoms so that we can live in a country where we were able to choose how we live and worship,” the recognition stated.
Students learned firsthand about the hardships veterans faced during their service during classroom visits at Davidson Elementary School. Jim Gholson shared stories from his 26-year stint in the Mississippi Army National Guard that started in 1965, stories that prompted a barrage of questions from the attentive students.
“Have your ever flown a jet?” one student asked.
“I’m not a pilot. I don’t fly them I just jump out of them,” Gholson explained as he shared details about dozens of jumps during training missions.
Meal time in the Army was another favorite topic for the students as the veteran noted C-rations were a delicacy when he was out in the field, especially with an extra dash of hot sauce.
Retired Master Sgt. Rick McCarty spent the morning with fifth graders at DES, reporting about his 21 years of service in the Marines. He also taught JROTC for another two decades at schools in Oxford and Walls.
“You are always told when you are small, you want to reach for the stars and do the best you can do. That is why I chose the Marines,” McCarty told the students. “You can be whatever you want to be, you just have to reach for it.”
McCarty traced the history of Veteran’s Day, starting with the historic armistice signed in France on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 to mark the end of World War I.
“In 1938 they changed Armistice to Veteran’s Day,” McCarty continued. “It is a day to honor all veterans who put the uniform on.”
“Did you like your job?” a student asked.
“I loved my job, I have been retired for about 15 years and still miss the Marine Corps. That is the comradery you have,” McCarty answered.
“What was your job in the Marines?” another student asked.
“My job was to train infantry people to survive in a war situation. Teaching them different types of weapons they would use,” McCarty answered.
“Were you ever attacked?” the questions continued.
“I guess I could call myself lucky. People think when you join the service, it is to go to war and defend our democracy. But actually I was in 17 years before I even saw battle. That is when I went to Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Three times after that I went back,” McCarty continued.
Responding to another inquiry, McCarty said his only injury during his service was an unlikely one.
“I was medevaced for a tooth ache when I bit into an apple,” he answered.
McCarty also stressed the importance of the coming generations, both in military service and other prestious positions.
“Just like life in general, the young people need to take over. And that is where you come in. I would not doubt, looking around right now, we could have the next president of the United States. The next astronaut, it’s possible. Whatever you put into it is what you are going to get out of it,” McCarty told the students.