PICKENS — Warm weather and sunny skies rained down on Pickens High School just in time to create a beautiful day for a heartfelt demonstration of appreciation Nov. 11 as Veterans Day was celebrated to honor those who have served their country.
Students, staff, School District of Pickens County administration, members of the American Legion, and members of the community gathered in the home stands of the PHS football stadium to honor veterans for their service to the fanfare of patriotic music and an ROTC review.
As the ceremony began with the boom of a cannon, the crowd was silently reverent.
The event was the 23rd such event held at PHS, and according to many in attendance, the numbers in attendance grow every year. Although it is a requisite by state mandate students observe the day, PHS Principal Marion Lawson feels it is bigger than that.
“It is part of a state requirement students take one hour of instruction time to celebrate this important day. We have been holding this event here for years and it seems to grow as we get to November each year,” Lawson said. “What we wanted to do was combine the Veterans Day ceremony with a way to honor our ROTC with a full pass and review in military style.”
The pass and review was officiated by Dr. Bill Roach, assistant superintendent of administration for SDPC, who stands impressed with the number of PHS students who participate in ROTC and with the solemnity of the memorial service.
“This is a time when our country still has troops overseas and it is important for the students to understand what that means not only to those serving but them as well,” Roach said. “The kids don’t know what it means at this point and that’s where honoring those who have served is important. This is a wonderful act of citizenship for them to honor these and other veterans and the military.”
When it came to the sheer number of PHS students involved in the ROTC program, Roach was moved.
“There are over 230 plus Cadets on the field and in uniform today, and that’s out of a school population of just over 1,300 students,” Roach said. “To have that many participating in a program like ROTC, well, that’s just phenomenal.”
With the passing of every year, the remaining number of WWII veterans declines exponentially. Lawson pointed out there were somewhere between eight and 10 WWII veterans in attendance last Veterans Day, yet only one in 2015 — Roy Maddox of Pickens County.
Now 90 years of age, Maddox was quick to point any attention away from himself, despite the sacrifices made by himself and others like him so many years ago. When asked what his thoughts were on the day’s festivities and his own service, Maddox focused on the students and others in attendance with a very brief statement.
“You know, I’m always impressed with the ROTC cadets and the way they extend to all of us a salute for our service,” Maddox said. “I just want to say thank you.”
Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.