If only the NFL could hire the Lincoln Center fifth and sixth grade student council to manage their playing of the National Anthem.
The student council planned the annual Veteran’s Day ceremony on Wednesday, serving Monroe County veterans lunch and then organizing a program that included the singing of the National Anthem, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, having the American Legion present the colors, showing a video from the Welcome Home Soldier celebration during RVTV with Lee Greenwood singing “Proud to Be an American,” the fifth, sixth and high school choirs singing “My Country Tis of Thee,” and speakers led by retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Roger George and Vietnam veteran Jim Keller.
George, who served 24 years in the Air Force and retired in 2014, talked to veterans and students about “Making the Bed,” (taken from a book by Admiral William H. Mcraven) remembering his days as a recruit in basic training trying to learn the military way of making his bed.
“I had a terrible time learning to make my bed perfectly,” he said. “I was yelled at and belittled by the drill sergeants until I finally got it right. Then I realized that completing a crazy, mundane task to start the day could help me throughout life.”
George said he learned that by completing well the first task of the day could encourage a person to complete the next and then the next. “Reinforcing the little things in life are what matter,” he said. “If you can’t do the little things, you might not be able to complete the big stuff. And if you make that bed right to start the day, you can always go back at the end of the day and see you did something right. No one can take that away from you.
“How will you make your bed?” he asked. “How will you make your day better?”
Keller, a regular at the school’s Veteran’s Day observances, thanked students for their attention and for being polite and courteous.
He updated work on Welcome Home Soldier, saying three Vietnam soldier statues are in Albia but won’t be put up until next spring because of wet grounds, adding a Civil War soldier playing the bugle will also go up next summer. The statue will play “Taps” at least once a day. He told the students the story of how the monument got its name (Keller read a book by a Vietnam P.O.W., traveled to Illinois to meet him and was greeted by Lt. Col. Coffey with “Thank you for your service and Welcome Home Soldier.”)
“When I came home from Vietnam we weren’t treated very well,” he said. “It was the first time in 34 years I’d ever heard that welcome and I decided then that I never wanted a veteran not to hear those words.”
Keller told one of his many stories of running into people at the monument. This story was about meeting a Vietnam War Marine from California who wound up giving Keller $100 and the St. Christopher’s Medal he wore during his combat tour. “I can’t take your medal,” Keller told the Marine, but the Marine insisted and Keller saw his daughter was crying. The Marine took Keller aside and told him he was dying from Agent Orange poisening and he needed to take the medal. “We became friends in that moment,” said Keller. “I called him in California last week and offered to send him back his medal because his time is running down,” said Keller. “He told me to keep it, he already had another.”
Keller told the students, “Do two things for me today. Tell a teacher thank you and tell your Mom and Dad you love them. Do it for me.”