Olive Branch Middle School Veterans Program

A honor guard from the Olive Branch High School Marine Corps JROTC presented the colors at the start of a Veterans Day program in the Olive Branch Middle School gymnasium on Friday, Nov. 8. The featured speaker for the program was Vietnam War veteran Vernon Jackson. The event was one of several that took place to honor those who served.  

For the past week, from schools, to hospitals, and city governments, in many ways, DeSoto County residents have paused to reflect and remember the servicemen and women, past and present, who have fought to defend our country.

Many schools through the county held, or still plan to hold programs that honor all branches of the Armed Services.

One such program was at Olive Branch Middle School, where an appreciation program was held, inviting veterans to come and be recognized.

One part of the program was a slide show done to music that featured photos of those from the school connected by either serving, or having family members served in the military. Middle school principal Kris Perkins was one such veteran, still active as a member of the Arkansas Army National Guard.

The student body and audience also heard from Vernon Jackson, who was active in the Vietnam War in 1966-67. Jackson was the featured speaker for the students and guests.

“To our veterans today, I say, ‘Keep your head up,’” Jackson said. “Students, be that conquistador, that conqueror, that person that does not give up, but will strive for the best. Take advantage of every opportunity that you have and give a hand to those who are in need.”

Jackson explained that, while the Vietnam conflict was not popular at home, he and others who took part felt it was important to fight the good fight, regardless of how publicly unpopular it might be.

“We all served because we felt it was our opportunity to serve our country,” said Jackson. “Sometimes we find veterans who are on the street or disabled, suffering from Post Traumatic Syndrome (Disorder) and it’s our responsibility to encourage them. All of the time I think about the young men who died in the war, so I’m trying to do all that I can to serve our community and to serve others.”

The program, punctuated by patriotic musical selections by the Olive Branch Middle School band, ended with a solo trumpet secluded off stage to play “Taps,” followed by dismissal without applause in respect. At the same time, eyes were focused on a display of a uniform with medals laying across a chair at the front. The display was emblematic of a soldier or veteran who had passed on.

The Olive Branch school program was among several that have taken place in the past week. Among the activities, cities have sponsored events, such as last week’s annual Winn and Annie Ruth Brown Veterans Appreciation Breakfast, hosted by the City of Horn Lake and held at the Landers Center. Wounded Warrior and severe stroke survivor Keith Pate provided the keynote address.

The City of Southaven held its annual Veterans Appreciation luncheon at its Community Safe Room near the Arena at Southaven, offering veterans a luncheon meal, as they heard from Southaven Alderman William Brooks, who is also a Wounded Warrior, as featured speaker.

Walt Starr, Hernando field representative with Congressman Trent Kelly’s office, spoke on the Congressman’s behalf during an annual event at Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto in Southaven. It was at that program that donations from county schools to “Shoeboxes for Soldiers” were again provided, bound for servicemen and women overseas.

The Turning Point Recovery Center in Southaven held a pinning ceremony as part of the Veterans Day observance to honor therapist ShaSheila King, a veteran who has experienced complex Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder. King now works to help others with the same issues.

Monday in Hernando, the annual Veterans Day Parade was held down Commerce Street with marching units, high school bands, floats and other units to remind us all of the sacrifice veterans have made for our country.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.