Nebraska City Middle School hosted its annual Veterans Day Breakfast on Friday concluding with a school assembly and program honoring all those who have served or who are serving in the nation’s military.
Caleb Poggemeyer, Michael Vlahos and Eli McNeely of Boy Scout Troup 353 served as the color guard for the event. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Student Council President Taylor Briley.
National Junior Honor Society President Valerie Bennie and National Junior Honor Society Vice President Connor Causgrove provided a welcome and speaker introduction and the Nebraska City High School Concert Band, under the direction of Sgt. Emily Roth, performed the National Anthem and the Armed Forces Medley.
As part of her welcoming remarks, Bennie gave the reason behind having an assembly for Veterans Day.
“We are here to honor these heroes,” she said of the veterans in attendance, “to remember their dedication and to say thank you for their sacrifices.
“We stand in the midst of patriots and the family and friends of those who have nobley served,” she said.
Principal Craig Taylor added to Bennie’s comments by thanking veterans for making America’s military the most respected force in the world.
“The service members we honor today come from all walks of life,” said Taylor. “They have shared several qualities. They possess courage, pride and determination—selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity.
“Today, people throughout the country will gather, remember and pay gratitude to those have served this great country. Our gathering is just one spark in the flame of pride that burns across the nation today and everyday.
“It is not a lot, but it is one small way that we can honor those who made sacrifices so we can live with the freedoms we have today,” Taylor said.
Causgrove then introduced the featured speaker of the event, Sgt. Justen Meneses, who is currently serving with the Nebraska National Guard 192nd Military Police Law and Order Detachment in Nebraska City.
“It’s a great honor to be here and to talk to all of you,” said Meneses.
During his time at the microphone, Meneses talked about the origin of Veterans Day and how it differs from Memorial Day. He also talked about why Veterans Day is important to him and the value of serving in the military.
Meneses said Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, an observance of the signing of a treaty that ended World War I.
Meneses noted that World War I was known as “the war to end all wars” and that it was a devastating conflict with casualty numbers greater than the population of some countries.
Unfortunately, Meneses said that World War I didn’t end all wars and noted that the United States has active duty personnel in 26 countries who stand ready to defend America’s freedoms.
From its inception, Meneses said Armistice Day was a day to remember the service of veterans and added that it was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day and made into a federal holiday by the actions of congress in 1954.
Meneses said that there is some confusion about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The difference is that Veterans Day, Meneses said, is to honor those who have served the country, and who are still with us, while Memorial Day is to honor those who lost their lives in battle or who have served the nation but have passed away.
In honoring veterans on Veterans Day, Meneses said it is also necessary to thank family and friends and all others who have stood in support of a veteran.
“A good soldier can not be a good soldier without a support system,” Meneses said.
In answering the question of why Veterans Day is important to him, Meneses said he has always loved history and has always loved those who have decided to join the military and serve the country for whatever reason.
“There are many different reasons why we join the military and decide to serve our nation,” Meneses said.
The particular motivation for his service, Meneses said, was to pursue to a dream. Meneses said he believes people should pursue their dream no matter what stage of life they are in. Meneses was 35 when he joined the military. Although he was older than his fellow soldiers, he was not detered.
Meneses said he was called “pops” and “old man,” but said he took great pride in those labels because he out worked some of the soldiers who were much younger than him.
The hard work Meneses put in pursuing his dream of military service made him part of something bigger, a family. That’s something that, unless you’ve served, Meneses said, it’s hard to understand.
“Until you join an organization like the military, you’ll never come to know a family outside of your blood relatives,” Meneses said.
Following the conclusion of the program, Meneses took a few moments to talk with the News-Press about the NCMS program and what it means to veterans.
“I wish more schools would do it,” he said. “As a veteran and as an active military member, it shows the community cares beyond putting up a flag on the Fourth of July or Memorial Day.
“And I think it’s important for students to know what Veterans Day means,” he said.
Meneses said students may be unaware that their neighbors or friends are serving or have served in the military.
Meneses said he attended the program after answering a call for a volunteer to speak.
“I enjoy reaching out to the community and letting them know a little bit more about who we are,” he said.