Osage Middle School honored all veterans through a special Veterans Day celebration held Monday morning for the community. One of the emotional parts of the ceremony was when National Junior Honor Society students released about 450 red, white and blue balloons to honor the memory of deceased veterans.
A number of guests faced the morning's brisk temperatures to witness the symbolizing event. As each balloon represented a veteran that someone at the school had a loving tie to, each name was read aloud over the intercom as the balloons were slowly released.
It's an Osage Middle School tradition that was started nine years ago with just 80 balloons. Every year since the initial ceremony, names have been added to the "Honor List" and every year a balloon is represented for each name on the list.
For the celebration, more than 75 guests from the community attended to watch as students paid their tribute to veterans. The ceremony began with the posting of the colors from the Lake of the Ozarks Composite Squadron Civil Air Patrol Color Guard under the direction of Retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. E8 Billy Gene Sanders, Sr. The pledge of Allegiance was recited by Tom Ladd who is a marine veteran and head custodian for the school.
Attendees were also treated to musical performances by choir director Claire Huck and the middle school choir. Then guests listened to Sarah Fisher, Allison Reinkemeyer, Shayne Grist and Sierra Haller read their winning Veterans Day essays aloud.
Peace Poster contest winners were announced by Lion's Club members and Kelly Wzorek was named the first place winner. Peyton Kusgen won second and Gabriel Hixson won third place. Wzorek's poster will go on to the state level for judging.
After a Folding of the Flag presentation was demonstrated by Taylor Bayles, Payton Bartlett and Eliza Koeppen, Ziden Keher and Siegrid Massie gave a presentation about the symbolism of the poppy flower in the poem "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae.
NJHS members presented a $1,200 donation to guest speaker Raymond Bassett on behalf of the Central Missouri Honor Flight. NJHS members recently raised the funds through their annual Rock-A-Thon event. Students who solicited the most money for the event are Elijah Skinner, Logan VanDyke, Patty Crabtree and Dalton Glenny. Those four students contribution of $343 will send one World War II veteran to Washington D.C. to see the memorials.
To close the ceremony, all veterans who attended the ceremony were then recognized and shown appreciated through the crowd's applause. The balloons were then launched and the Honor List was read. Kaitlynn Ruck and Lexi Daggett lead in guests in prayer.
Ushers of the event included Taylor Bayles, Haley Bradley, Siegrid Massie, Christian Gonnella, Xalli Schillaci, Kaitlyn Ruck, Lea Hart, Broque Echols, Gage Swofford, Dalton Glenny, Audrey Milam and Krista Ecton.