Veterans from all branches of service were greeted with a standing ovation as the honored guests of Tehachapi High School's 12th Annual Veterans Day Assembly held Friday in the school's gymnasium.
Each year, students go all out with red, white and blue balloon decorations and pop-up displays to express their gratitude for the men and women who fought for the country's freedoms in wars around the world.
"For the past three weeks, since Homecoming ended, we have been working really hard to make sure that the veterans feel welcomed and appreciated," said Amy Watkins, THS activity director.
ASB President McKenzie Richter addressed the student body concerning the purpose of the assembly.
"We take a few moments to reflect on the sacrifices others have made so that we can enjoy freedoms we experience every day," Richter said. "We are gathered here today to honor some of our local heroes who have bravely offered their service to our country."
After the veterans took their seats center court, the U.S. Army presented the Colors, followed by the national anthem sung by THS choir members.
Principal Cristy Libatique introduced attending veterans, including Sgt. Richard Oldenburg (Korea, 1953-56), who concluded the assembly by playing taps with his bugle.
Keynote speaker was Capt. Jason Shank, who was born and raised in Ohio, but recently moved to Tehachapi with his wife, Nicole. After graduating from high school, he attended the Air Force Academy, where he graduated in 2010 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.
Following the academy, Shank earned his master's degree from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 2012. He was ultimately selected to fly the F16 fleet. He was recently selected to attend the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, and will begin class in January.
"I want to begin today by recognizing these great Americans before us who have been part of the great brotherhood and sisterhood that we call the United States military," said Shank. "It's your service and sacrifice that have keep our country safe and free. No matter which branch you served in, raising your hand and committing yourself to something greater than yourself was a brave and selfless act."
Shank went on to talk about the meaning of sacrifice.
Said Shank, "The veterans before you today made a conscious and deliberate choice when they swore an oath that said, that you all, every one of you, are more important. More important than their desires, more important than their own families and more important, even, than their own lives."
The assembly included a fundraiser presentation given by Libatique. Recently, the students held an Honor Flight fundraiser for veterans, raising $2,000.
"Two weeks ago, we had a small battle of our own. Our second period classes competed in a team war to raise money for Kern County Honor Flights," said Libatique. "It was a fierce competition....and we thank you for your contributions to that worthy cause."
As is tradition, the veterans were treated to a slide show featuring historical photos and footage of past wars presented with patriotic music.