Standing ovations, welcoming speeches, patriotic music and decorations in red, white and blue were prominent at the Veterans Assembly at Tehachapi High School gym on Nov. 9. More than 50 veterans from all branches of service were honored individually as the crowd cheered.
“It was great and very emotional for me," said Michael Alvarez, who served in the Army. "I come from a family of soldiers and it was up to me to carry on. It’s great to see the young people appreciate us and what veterans have done.”
Speakers included Capt. Ed Sullivan, a representative from the National World War II Memorial Committee, Staff Sgt. Robyn Dempsey, who served during the Cold War, THS Principal Scott Heitman, Capt. Don Thiesse and others to thank the veterans seated in the middle of the gym.
A memorial video was also played, showing old pictures and videos of soldiers in the past 100 years.
The audience listened as many speeches centered on the work and dedication of men and women in service, defending U.S. freedoms and the Constitution.
Thiesse said, “There’s another threat that I think is equally worrisome. And that’s how America now is perceived by other Americans. I think it’s changed within my lifetime, and I think we don’t respect other Americans like we used to."
He added, "They shout each other down, they visit violence upon one another and it’s not right. It’s your generation that’s going to have to change that and we have to fight for each other.”
Many veterans assembled were from many branches of the military, battles and wars including the Cold War era, World War II, Vietnam and others.
Sullivan said the event at THS was part of a plan started many years ago by the National World War II Memorial Committee to ensure veterans are honored for their service. He added that the program encourages gender diversity as much as possible and that many people are making sure this recognition goes on.
Dempsey said, “Thank you everyone who is here today. It is an honor.” She added that everyone should visit monuments and walls dedicated to veterans who died for American freedom if they have a chance.
Some students were moved to tears and talked to veterans after the assembly.
“It’s our way of giving back to those who have sacrificed their lives for us. I’m so thankful,” said high school student Bianca Cacciola.