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HCHS Students Honor Veterans

County veterans were honored during an hour-long tribute at Halifax County High School Wednesday morning that featured student participation and guest speaker Brigadier General Robert Tucker.

Following the presentation of colors by the HCHS JROTC, the national anthem by the HCHS band, and pledge of allegiance by SCA President Annika Butler, representatives from area veterans’ organizations participated in the presentation of wreaths honoring the veterans in attendance.

Featured speaker B. G. Robert Tucker, who was introduced by SFC Edward L. Holt, spoke to the students about “Ordinary People.”

“Simply put, that’s who veterans are – ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things,” Tucker said.

“Young and old – rich and poor – black and white – and nearly every category in between, they are men and women who served or still serve America. Some have endured great hardships, separation from family and drastically altered lifestyles.”

Tucker told the students and veterans of specific individuals like Klay South, an ordinary young man from Indiana, who continues to accomplish extraordinary things.

Corporal South knows much about sacrifice, Tucker said. The 30-year-old Marine chose to serve his country twice in Iraq and also was twice wounded in battle. His second tour of duty in 2004 nearly took his life.

“While far too many veterans are homeless or unemployed, it is no coincidence that corporate titans such as AOL’s James Kimsey, Federal Express CEO Frederick Smith and Viacom’s Sumner Redstone honed their leadership skills in the U. S. military…just ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things,” he added.

Tucker said it “would be a stretch” to believe that these extraordinary accomplishments are “mere coincidence” and not due to the discipline, motivational skills, calmness under pressure and other leadership traits that are instilled in every man and woman who has served in the greatest military force on the planet.”

The guest speaker also spoke of Francis Currey who was orphaned at the age of 12 growing up in a foster home in upstate New York.

He enlisted in the Army in 1943, one week after he graduated from high school and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

Although he completed Officer Candidate School, at only 18 his superiors felt he was “too immature” to be an officer and denied him a commission.

After training with the 75th Infantry Division, Currey was sent to England in the spring of 1944. Due to a recently signed executive order which prevented soldiers under age 19 from entering combat areas, Currey was delayed in England until his birthday at the end of June. He then landed at Omaha Beach, several weeks after D-Day, and in September joined the 120th Infantry Regiment in the Netherlands.

By Dec. 21, 1944, Currey was serving as a sergeant in Company K, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division. On that day, in Malmedy, Belgium, Currey repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire to attack the German forces and rescue five comrades who had been pinned down by enemy fire.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor eight months later on Aug. 17, 1945, Tucker said.

And the “ordinary people” are not just men, the guest speaker told the audience.

Tucker told of another “ordinary person,” Army Specialist Monica Brown who was still a teenager when she went on a routine patrol as a medic in Afghanistan in 2007.

Caught under insurgent fire in Paktika Province, she and her platoon sergeant ran a few hundred yards toward a burning Humvee.

Dodging rounds by only inches, Tucker said Specialist Brown helped pull injured soldiers from the vehicle and rendered life-saving first aid.

For her actions, she was awarded a Silver Star, the nation’s third highest combat decoration, he told his captivated audience.

When she enlisted at age 17, the native of Lake Jackson, TX had aspirations of becoming an x-ray technician, but the Army convinced her that being a medic would offer her the greatest opportunity to help her fellow soldiers, Tucker said.

He quickly added, “But to credit the Monica Browns and other brave heroes in our military with helping only their comrades is somewhat short-sighted. They are helping everyone.”

“It is America, not America’s military, that al Qaeda and other terrorists have declared war on. But it is our Armed Forces that carry the great burden and responsibility of defending America. Fortunately, our military is made up of ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things,” he continued.

“Born of their extraordinary accomplishments comes our extraordinary debt,” Tucker said. “And much of that debt is owed to the military families who have sacrificed so much for their country. We must honor all of these families and not just with Blue and Gold Star Banners, but with compassionate hearts.”

He further explained that post-traumatic syndrome disorder, also known as PTSD, traumatic brain injury and various life-altering war wounds, not only affect the veteran but also take an enormous toll on the family as well.

“While veterans are often ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things, it is often an extraordinary family that supports the ordinary veteran,” he said.

“And it is the veterans who have given us this extraordinary country,” Tucker concluded.