Guest speaker for the event was Army Staff Sgt. Paul Schmitz, Jr.
Schmitz served two tours of duty in South Korea. He was stationed at Ft. Benning, Ga., and later at Ft. Lewis, Wash. Schmitz graduated Primary Leadership Course and Sniper School at Ft. Benning.
"I want to talk about patriotism," Schmitz said.
He started by telling of his injuries that he received while serving with the Quick Reaction Force in northern Iraq.
"We were taking small arms fire, mortar rounds and RPGs, and in the middle of a fire fight, I felt something that took the breath out of me," he continued. "I literally had to lay down my weapon in a fire
fight to catch my breath. Then, starting from the waist down, I couldn't feel my legs."
"I was praying to God that if anything was gonna happen to me to let it be then, because I didn't want my son going through anything too hard," Schmitz recalled. "[The soldier] looked at me and said, 'You're not going anywhere.' I had my answer."
Schmitz underwent surgery and was transported to a hospital in Germany. From there, he was flown to Walter Reed, where he was met by his parents the following morning. It was there that doctors discovered his L4 vertebrae had been shattered.
While undergoing treatment for his injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center at Bethesda, Md., a man handed him a copy of the book "War Above the Trees," by Ron Carey. The book tells of Plei Trap Valley in Vietnam (Operation Wayne Grey) during March and April of 1969.
Schmitz said while reading that book he realized some of the dangers his father experienced during his tour of duty.
"The book told how my dad was on a re-supply mission when a 'Mayday' call came in," Schmitz said. "His chopper was in the area and they responded to the coordinates and I read how my dad was hanging upside down out of a helicopter with the gunner holding his feet as he helped rescue those men.
"It was then that their chopper came under heavy fire," Schmitz said. "The pilot managed to maneuver about three clicks away before the chopper crashed and they were rescued by another helicopter.
"I grew up hearing stories about my dad's military service, but it wasn't until I was injured that I finally heard how my dad became a hero to another family," Schmitz continued. "I read amazing things about my dad that I had never heard. That day, my father became a true hero to me."
Schmitz said that every veteran had a common bond.
"We would lay down our lives for our country and for our brothers to the left and to the right of us," Schmitz said. "A lot of guys never got thanked, and there are a lot of us sleeping better at night because of what they did."
Finally, Schmitz urged the audience to remember to thank military service personnel and veterans.
"Sit down with a vet and ask him his story sometime," he said. "You will hear about amazing things and people."
Schmitz received two Purple Hearts, five Army Commendations with Valor, five Army Achievement Medals, three Good Conduct Medals, two National Defense Medals, the War on Global Terrorism Medal, three overseas service ribbons, a combat infantry badge and the Stalk Master Award from Sniper School.
Students were given yellow ribbons in their second hour class to wear throughout the day to show their thankfulness, pride, honor and remembrance for soldiers and veterans.
The ceremony also included the presentation of colors by members of the Southwest Area Career Center Junior ROTC program, a demonstration on the folding and the meaning of each fold of the American Flag and a haunting rendition of "Taps" played by two Cub Pride Marching Band trumpeters. The ceremony ended with "Veterans Salute," performed by the Cub Pride Marching Band.
Veterans Day assemblies and special events were also held at Pierce City, Purdy, Verona and Wheaton high schools.