by ARIEL McRAE | Associate Editor
by DANNY WADE | Senior Editor
People from all over Humboldt gathered together on Main Street and at Barker Memorial Stadium to celebrate the honor and sacrifice of local veterans on Thursday, November 9. The Humboldt Exchange Club organized this event for the public to honor those who have served from Gibson County.
A parade through downtown Humboldt kicked off the program. It was a short and sweet walk with veterans holding up various flags trailed behind by the FFA students at Humboldt Jr./Sr. High School. Bringing up the rear was one of only two Humboldt World War II veterans, 98-year-old Whitney Thompson. He waved to everyone as people from the crowd thanked him for his service. Humboldt’s other World War II veteran, 101-year-old William “Kent” Dennis was unable to attend this year.
The celebration continued inside of Magnolia Manor with the veterans and attendees being welcomed to the ceremony by Humboldt Public Library Director John Blankenship. During his opening, Blankenship thanked all the veterans in attendance for their service and then lead the prayer. Afterward, the crowd remained standing as Ashley Niven, children and youth services librarian, led the homeschool library group to the front of the room where they led the pledge of allegiance. Then, Jessie Yarbrough sang the national anthem, which led to a round of applause from the audience. Mayor Marvin Sikes spoke for a moment to thank those in the crowd who had served and told an anecdote about how his mother had always looked forward to the letters his brothers would send home from the Vietnam War. Representative Brock Martin was also in attendance and spoke to those gathered briefly where he told them outside of faith and family, thanking the veterans of this nation, especially Humboldt, was at the top of his list.
Blankenship then introduced the speaker for the ceremony, Jason Robertson. Robertson was an orphan in Vietnam
who was eventually rescued and brought to America. He told a story of how at one of his speaking engagements a lady told him that she once used to be so angry at those who had survived Vietnam and anyone that looked like they were from there because her husband lost his life there during the war. During his speech however, she was able to forgive and let go of that pain because seeing him and knowing he was an orphan who was saved felt like that was what her husband had sacrificed his life for because he used to write her letters about worrying over the kids of Vietnam. He said he was grateful for all that had served, especially those in Vietnam because without them he would not have the life he has today. He ended his speech by saying “God bless America.” The ceremony concluded on a solemn note with the playing of “Taps.”
After the downtown ceremony, the celebration moved across town the Barker Memorial Stadium football field. Humboldt City Schools’ George Yarbro welcomed the veterans, attendees and students on the damp, blustery day.
Highlighting this portion of the event was the arrival of a Black Hawk helicopter. It circled the stadium then began a slow descent and landed in the middle of the football field. The brut force winds from the chopper made the regular winds of the day seem like a slight breeze. Once the helicopter landed and revved down the engine, HJSHS student unveiled a gigantic American flag on the football field that stretched 20 yards or more. Humboldt FFA officers presented the colors in front of the stage.
HHS student Tyreke Boykin offered the prayer, followed by the singing of the National Anthem and Beta Club members leading the Pledge of Allegiance.
Yarbro asked the veterans attending the ceremony to come to the front of the stage. One-by-one, each veteran gave his or her name, rank, branch of military and any wars or tours of duty they were part of. This grew a tremendous round of applause and standing ovation from the students in the stands. After the recognition, there was a moment of silence for all of the fallen veterans, followed by the playing of “Taps” on the bugle by Tom Grant.
Humboldt Exchange Club President Elna Blankenship introduced the speaker for the occasion, Jason Robertson, who spoke earlier at the downtown event. Robertson spoke about the important roles United States veterans played in history, fighting for our freedom. He offered some advice to the students—you can hate the war, but love the veterans. He said the war is about politics but those fighting gave all for freedom.
To close out the program, students got to see the Black Hawk up close. Several students asked the pilot and flight crew questions about the helicopter.
Even though the day did not have perfect weather to honor and celebrate Humboldt’s veterans, the gloomy, blustery day may have been the exact right weather—fitting for the solemn day remembering veterans, both present and past.