JACKSON CENTER — The Jackson Center/Upper Valley Career Center chapter of the FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) hosted a breakfast and Veterans Day celebration ceremony for approximately 70 local veterans, Friday morning, Nov. 9, at the Jackson Center High School.
Vicki Kipker, the Family and Consumer Science instructor at Jackson Center Schools is the chairwoman of the FCCLA along with two student cochairpersons: Katelyn Sosby, 17, daughter of Dwaine and Tina Sosby, and Riley Jackson, 18, daughter of Anthony and Stephany Jackson.
Kipker was noticeably excited about the event and proud of the way everyone pulled together and worked so hard to get ready for it.
“This is truly a joint effort and would not be possible without the cooperation of a lot of great students and staff here at the school. Katelyn and Riley selected a committee of about 20 people from our student body. The group worked really hard to plan and prepare for today’s event. We started at 7:30 this morning; after the tables were decorated in the cafeteria, some students greeted the veterans at the front door and showed them to their seats while others waited tables and prepared breakfast. All the food was donated and prepared by the students who wanted to do something special for our veterans,” Kipker said.
After breakfast, the veterans walked to the gymnasium where the ceremonies took place. The hallways leading to the gym were lined with students who clapped and cheered as the veterans made their way to a special seating area located on the gym floor in front of the bleachers filled with enthusiastic students who applauded their arrival. After everyone was seated, members of the Jackson Center American Legion Schere Post No. 493 presented of colors before taps was played by student Sean March. Next Cameron Ross, president of the FCCLA, led the Pledge of Allegiance which was followed by the national anthem, which was performed by a quartet of students: Zach Welly, Madison Halker, Bailey Boss and Spencer Yinger.
The featured speaker for the event was Dan Bratka, an attorney from West Liberty, who is also a retired U.S. Air Force Reserve lieutenant colonel who served in the military for 35 years. Bratka was moved by the number of those in attendance and the level of enthusiasm in the air.
“This is by far the best turnout I’ve seen for a long, long time, and I do a lot of these programs. This one will be hard to top! Please accept my heartfelt thanksgiving for all you folks have done to honor those who are proudly serving or have served our country in the past; your patriotism is greatly appreciated,” Bratka said. He then shared a story told to him by his father, who served as a radio operator in World War II. Bratka’s father was transmitting instructions to a flight engineer who was attempting to land a Consolidated B24 Liberator bomber plane that had been heavily damaged in battle over Japan.
“The plane was shot to pieces with only two of the four engines still running. Most of the crew was injured and both pilots were dead. Nearly everyone at the air base had gathered outside with emergency crews ready and waiting for the planes to come in as my father and others tried frantically to relay flight instructions to the flight engineer, who had never tried to land an airplane.”
Bratka paused, his voice wavered and tears came to his eyes as he attempted to finish telling the story.
“It was a desperate situation with Dad and everyone else doing all they could to get that plane back safely on the ground … traagically, while coming in and attempting to land, the plane crashed and burst into flames at the end of the runway killing all aboard. My father never forgot that sight or lost the feeling of helplessness and sorrow he and everyone else felt as they watched in horror. Though not there, I, too, will always remember what happened that day and so should all of you. The sorrow of that story and thousands and thousands of others like it should always keep us mindful of the sacrifices made by those who have served and continue to serve and protect our country, and I salute the greatest group of fighting men and women the world has ever known,” Bratka said.
After Bratka spoke, several students shared information about Jeans for Troops and GI Go Fund, where Jackson Center students and teachers raised money for the military. The students also donated 176 pairs of black crew socks to be sent to our troops at a later time. Next, several students read letters of appreciation they were sending to servicemen who are currently serving, and each veteran in attendance was presented with an envelope containing several items made by the students.
Before closing, those in attendance were invited to sing along with a video featuring the song, “I’m Proud to Be an American” by Lee Greenwood.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.