Just moments before Cedar Ridge Middle School students started filing into the gymnasium, Molly Tittle and Sophia Metcalfe discovered they have more in common than fathers who are veterans.
“The military rules at home are too strict,” Tittle said.
“I agree,” Metcalfe said with a smile.
Household discipline aside, the teenagers expressed gratitude for their fathers as Cedar Ridge’s more than 800 students celebrated Veterans Day on Friday.
“It’s an honor to see all these students honor my dad,” said Tittle, 13.
For almost an hour, veterans joined students in the program that included salutes to the American flag, placing hands over their hearts, and student-led pledges of allegiance and singing of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Teacher and program coordinator Shawnta Fleming said students are heavily involved with the program “because we want them to understand that they are allowed to sit in the classroom and have an opinion because our veterans have put their lives on the line.”
Tittle’s father, Redus Tittle, has served in the military 27 years and is attached to the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command.
He served a tour in Afghanistan in 2008 but is reluctant to accept the hero status Cedar Ridge students gave him Friday morning.
“I’m proud of all the people who served so that I can be in the military,” Lt. Col. Tittle said. “It’s because of them that I am here.”
Although he communicated with the family almost daily, his daughter said it was nerve-racking for her.
“I worried a lot,” the eighth-grader said.
Metcalfe’s father, Marc, served six years in the Army and is a civilian military guard at Redstone Arsenal.
“I don’t deserve any attention, but I’m glad these students are honoring veterans,” Sgt. Metcalfe said.
Cedar Ridge Principal Beth Weinbaum said the purpose of the program is to honor and educate. Her husband served in the Navy during Vietnam.
“We want our students to know why they have the freedoms they have,” Weinbaum said.
She said America is the country others “look to as an exemplary model for freedom” and “this is because of our veterans.”
Rodney Young, a Navy veteran and brother of Cedar Ridge custodian Michelle Matthews, was the guest speaker.
He talked about the opportunity to serve “this great country” and the moments when he joined the military and realized he was a veteran.
After graduating from Hartselle High in the mid-1980s, Young said he had no plan for his life when Matthews drove him to a recruiting office.
“She is why I am a veteran,” he said of his sister.
Young returned to the area after “going halfway around the world twice,” and he and his wife Charlotte graduated two daughters from Auburn University.
He said he was talking with “an older gentleman” when the man asked if he had served in the military.
“I said, ‘Yes,’ ” Young said. “I never considered myself one, but the man told me I was a veteran.”
Cedar Ridge student Hillary Strong, 13, has heard about veterans for many years. Her father, grandfather and two uncles served in the military.
“They fought for us, and this is the day we honor them,” she said.
Not registered? Click here
|High School Sports||@DecaturPreps|