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Students honor veterans at annual ceremony

TERI VANCE

During Carson Middle School’s annual Veterans Day Commemoration on Friday, eighth-grader Jessica Contreras read a portion of a letter she wrote to a veteran.

“You have protected our freedoms just as you protected your peers on the battlefield,” she read. “Your sacrifices have given us so much. Thank you.”

A bundle of similar letters written by the students was given to retired Master Sgt. Tod Jennings to be delivered to veterans living in convalescent homes.

“You can’t imagine what this will mean to them. It will make their year,” Jennings said. “They get the feeling of being forgotten or lost. Then out of nowhere they get these letters and know they are not forgotten.”

“Many of them will cry,” he said, tearing up himself.

Each eighth-grader interviewed a veteran and wrote the veterans’ biographies on placards, which are on display on the front lawn of the school.

Former state Sen. Lawrence “Jake” Jacobsen was featured on one of the placards. He was also the keynote speaker.

Born and raised on a ranch in Gardnerville, Jacobsen said, he soon tired of milking cows and feeding hogs. At 17, he tried to join the U.S. Navy.

His mom wouldn’t sign the papers, so he got a brother to sign and began his six-year career in the military, serving the duration of World War II.

He recounted silly moments in the service, like the time he and a fellow

sailor rode water buffaloes in their “whites” in the Philippines. And he told of the somber realization of war – kill or be killed.

“I just can’t impress on you how great our freedom is,” he said. “With the good Lord willing, may we always be safe, may we always be strong. May we always be free.”

The commemoration concluded with a flag retirement ceremony. As students folded the flag, they explained the symbolism of each fold.

“When the flag is completely folded, the stars are up, reminding us of our national motto: In God we trust,” explained Daniel Ceballos.

Representatives from the Army and Air National guards were presented with the American Hero recognition.

“They have so many people deployed and they do so much for our school,” said teacher Ananda Campbell, who organized the ceremony. “We felt it was their turn to be honored.”

After the ceremony, Brent and Gina Whipple walked through the placards, which are arranged on the lawn in a pattern designed by math students Jasmine Co, Cassie Fillmore and Kristen McKelvey.

Brent Whipple, Sgt. First Class in the Army National Guard, was among those featured on a placard.

“Being in the military myself, I think it’s really important we remember all those who have served,” he said. “Carson Middle School is doing a good job of that.”