They’ve been honoring military veterans with a special ceremony at Ruidoso Middle School every Nov. 11 for well over a decade, and last Friday’s observance proved again that practice makes perfect.
“You can feel the respect and honor in the air right now,” said Dana Lenzo, scoutmaster and school mother, who led the proceedings.
Dozens of Lincoln County vets sat in rows of folding chairs on the floor of the RMS gymnasium, most wearing the insignias, badges and other mementos of their service careers. One was arrayed in the full dress blues of a U.S. Navy enlisted man, complete with crisp white canvas “Dixie Cup” on his head.
“He’s the only one who can still fit into his uniform,” Lenzo quipped.
It was one of the few light moments in observances that were meant to express solemn gratitude for the sacrifices of all who serve their country in uniform, and to provide a living lesson for RMS students on why Veterans Day is highlighted on their calendars.
The entire student body filled the bleachers behind the guests of honor, listening and participating with full attention throughout the program, and rising for a heartfelt standing ovation for the vets when it was over.
The gym walls were festooned with colorful, patriotic student artwork and expressions of thanks. Lenzo’s Boy Scout troop provided the color guard for the event, and she led the proceedings with disciplined military-style precision befitting the occasion.
But for all its crisp formality, the event was warm and highly personal. Lenzo had collected information from each veteran on their duty assignments and specialties and also asked them for their thoughts for the day. She shared these from the podium.
“Honor your forefathers,” wrote one. “Honor your country’s legacy of freedom in everything you do.”
“Make sure you believe in the Constitution,” admonished another.
“Remain patriotic,” said a third. “It should always be an honor to serve.”
“Join up if you’re not going to college,” advised a fourth.
Ruidoso Police Chief Darren Hooker, a veteran himself whose career included a year in Iraq, gave a short memoir of his slice of Army life and talked about what it means to be one of the nation’s 23 million former service members.
A highlight of the day came early in the program, when band instructor Gary Shaver put down his baton and came to the microphone to tell everyone in the room it was time to stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in the rote, halting way most Americans have been accustomed to repeating since childhood:
I pledge allegiance. . .to the flag. . . of the United States of America, etc.
“If you look at how it’s written, that’s not how it goes,” Shaver said. “You only pause at the commas.”
Phrase by phrase, directing everyone to repeat after him as he demonstrated, Shaver coached the crowd on how to say the words as a complete sentence divided into clauses, each conveying an important idea. Then he led everyone in a start-to-finish recitation.
“Doesn’t it sound a little different that way?” he asked when it was over.
He was right, it really did.
Tomlin, D. (2016, November 15). Pride and gratitude at RMS Vets Day ceremony. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.ruidosonews.com/story/news/local/2016/11/15/pride-and-gratitude-rms-vets-day-ceremony/93805680/