“More than just an assembly:” Highlands Middle School holds military appreciation event

It was a full day of interaction at Highlands Middle School. “We're going to spend all day here at the school,” said retired Army Lt. Col. Hank Cramer.

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Dozens of veterans visited Highlands Middle School for its annual military appreciation event, but this was more than just a Veteran’s Day assembly.

“Feels great because you get to see everybody who just gave it their all,” said Alex Davis with the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS). He said it’s an honor to spend time with veterans who served and fought for his country.

“Just seeing them, speaking to them. If I’m lucky enough, I’ll probably get to hear a few of their stories. That’d be the best part,” Davis said.

And for the veterans, that’s what they’re at Highlands for. Not just a typical Veteran’s Day assembly, but something more according to retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Hank Cramer.

“We’re going to spend all day here at the school, sitting in classrooms throughout the school, sitting and talking face to face with kids, and we can share our stories and hear their questions. And that to me, it’s so important that the veterans in our community get a chance to speak to the young people in the community and share both the good and the bad,” said Lt. Col. Cramer.

Through word of mouth, this event has grown to dozens of veterans, according to Connie Fow, a teacher and NJHS advisor.

“We had started in ’97 with four guys in my classroom,” Fow said.

Honoring Vietnam veterans who weren’t welcomed back with respect

For the armed service members, and those who didn’t get the welcome home they deserved, Highlands wanted to honor them.

“Our Vietnam veterans sometimes never get a welcome back,” said Fow. “I want each and every one of them to know that Highlands cares.”

A veteran speaker at the assembly presented a poem on his experience coming home, entitled, “Where were you in 1968?” He said he wrote it for all the brothers and sisters of the Vietnam War era.

“‘Now, I’m old. I still see the hate. From leftover hippies who can’t relate. Where were you in 1968?’” The veteran quoted.

“There’s an earlier generation of veterans here who came home from Vietnam in 1968, 1969 and 1970, and they were disrespected and reviled. They were spat upon. And for these, for these older-this older generation of veterans to come here and be welcomed and respected by young people is huge. It’s a very healing thing. And those are deep scars, and I know a lot of that will be healed today,” said Lt. Col. Cramer.

One veteran at the event said it might be the largest group of veterans you’ll see in one room, but Fow said her goal is 100.

LAST YEAR: Students honor local veterans with coffee, lunch at Highlands Middle School