Collegiate honors Veterans with a heartfelt program

Norfolk Collegiate’s Middle and Upper School students, faculty and staff and community members filled the Watt-Baker Gymnasium to honor and celebrate those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces during our Veterans Day Program on Nov. 10.

The program was led by senior Darden Purrington ’16 who is the president of the Future Military Leaders Club. The room was filled with an attentive audience who listened diligently to the patriotic sounds played by our Middle and Upper School Band and keynote speaker Ret. Army Col. William Johnson.

“Those who have served should be remembered,” echoed Johnson. “When you take the oath, you give your life and promise to protect the lives and values that our country hold so dear.”

Johnson began his speech by defining the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

“People often confuse the two days and both are highly important to our men and women in uniform,” said Johnson. “Memorial Day is a day for people to decorate the graves and pray over fallen soldiers. Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day and is to celebrate those who have served in the military.”   

Whether our veterans served during a time of peace or war, each member of the Armed Forces is honored and recognized for their dedication on Veterans Day.  

"Veterans Day is a day to remember those who have and are fighting for our freedom, said Darden '16. "It is a day to honor people who have signed a blank check to the United States of America, and all of her citizens, saying that they are willing to give anything to protect us, our freedom and everything we hold dear about our lives in this amazing country." 

Johnson, who served for 32 years, including three tours in Vietnam, received many honors and commendations, most importantly the Distinguished Services Cross, which is the second highest award for valor.

He described his return to the U.S. after the Vietnam War as a unkind return. After the second tour, Johnson and his men were questioned and spit upon because citizens didn’t understand why the U.S. was at war.

“It was a just war and the first requirement of a leader is to serve,” Johnson said. “We agreed to help our neighbors both near and far whenever they were in need.”

A just war is the attempt to protect human life and protect those who are innocent.

“We are a free people whose quest is to help others who strive to have that same freedom,” Johnson said.

He noted that our nation is responsible for relieving more suffering and freeing more people than any other country.

“Nobility is the willingness to place others needs before your own,” Johnson said.

He concluded his speech with a question “are you grateful” [for those who have served and given their lives for your freedom].

The Veterans Day Program closed with a reading of names of service members and veterans within or close to the Collegiate community along with a slideshow tribute to them.

“It’s important for our students to participate in the Veterans Day Program because we often take our liberty and freedom for granted,” said Jessica Henning, upper school teacher, Navy veteran and spouse. “A small portion of our population have lived, died and served, and we should never forget them.” 

The audience was filled with many servicemen who wholeheartedly agreed with Johnson and Henning.

Frank Campion, a former U.S. Navy Commander who served for 22 years, was one of them.

“I deployed several times, including the Gulf, Pacific and Mediterranean and during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Baghdad during 2006,” said Campion, father of Grant Campion ’17. “I was devoted to serving my country and gaining discipline.”

Collegiate salutes all of our veterans and would like to thank you for your service to our country.

Nov. 18, 2015