JACKSON CENTER — The arrival of the first significant snowfall followed by spine-tingling single digit temperatures on Veterans Day ushered in the first school closings and countless delays in Shelby County. Though the Veteran’s Day assembly slated for Tuesday morning at Jackson Center High School was delayed for a day due to the extreme cold; spirits were high on Wednesday morning and a capacity crowd of students, village residents and other locals packed the JC auxiliary gymnasium to honor veterans in a variety of ways.
Upon arriving at the school all veterans were greeted by students who ushered them to the cafeteria where they were served breakfast. Student volunteers waited tables, served breakfast, and cleaned up after the meal. After food and fellowship, the entire group of veterans moved to the gymnasium. The entire student body was on hand and the veterans received a standing ovation, cheers, and a long round of applause that lasted until the entire group was seated. After everyone was in position, the American Legion Color Guard from Scherer Post #493 of Jackson Center posted the colors and students Katie Chandler and Neveah Ledcke played an echoing version of Taps as all stood at attention. Afterward Student Council President Rachel Sailor led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the National Anthem performed by the JC Choir Ensemble.
Student Cameron Ross, member of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), welcomed all in attendance, outlined the program proceedings and acknowledged the crowd’s gratitude for the dedication, efforts, and sacrifices of “America’s bravest men and women” and thanked them for their service to our country.
Ross introduced fellow student Kennedy Jackson, who was in charge if this year’s Veterans Day Assembly. Jackson welcomed all those in attendance and proceeded to introduce this year’s guest speaker.
“Our speaker this morning is retired Lt. Col. Kenneth L. Bonnell. He was born and raised on a farm in Wayne County, and has lived on a farm in Union County, Ohio, since 1990 where he raises purebred Suffolk Sheep.” Jackson said.
Jackson continued outlining Bonnell’s long and distinguished military career that started as a regular Army Infantry Officer and Airborne Ranger in 1966 and spanned over 24 years in various capacities into 1990. He commanded several infantry platoons, two companies, and two battalions. “As a Captain he had two tours of duty in South Vietnam, one in 1968-69 where he served as the Senior Advisor to the elite Vietnamese Ranger Battalion, and another in 1971 where he served in the 101st Airborne Division, commanded E Company of the 2nd Battalion, 506th infantry where he led a noted fighting group called “The band of Brothers.” He was wounded twice, and was awarded six medals for bravery including two Purple Hearts.” Jackson said. She then highlighted the rest of his long and diverse career which included everything from fighting Russian forces in Czechoslovakia in 1967 to working in the private sector for 16 plus years in Rehabilitation and Corrections in Ohio State prisons and much, much, more. After introductions Bonnell received a hardy welcome from all in attendance.
Stepping the podium Bonnell thanked Jackson, the students and faculty, and Jackson Center Schools for inviting him to speak and said “I’ve been to a lot of high-school programs but I believe this is the best one yet, thank you all so much for having me,” he said.
Bonnell started things off with a little light humor about raising “Army Ranger Sheep” that grew “steel wool that was tough and hard to shear.” He then talked about his wife’s dedication to holding their family together no matter where they lived, and the stress of constantly moving around —- they moved a total of 18 times, sometimes twice in the same year! He and his wife Bonnie have three sons all of which have served and retired from the military as well. The military has definitely been “a family affair” Bonnell said noting he and his sons have a combined 81 years of military service.
The bulk of Bonnell’s speech centered on veterans who faithfully served their country/
“You notice there is no apostrophe before or after the letter s on the word Veterans in ‘Veterans Day’… that’s because it would make the word possessive belonging to one or and individual and it’s so much more than that, we’re a team. It’s all about all veterans, men and women alike, from combat vets to doctors nurses,” he said.
He discussed the various military-related holidays and noted the differences in how they should be celebrated; then he spoke of sacrifices.
“Of course we all think about some of the obvious sacrifices like being away from home, not seeing family, missing birthday parties, graduations and child-births, but Memorial Day reminds us there’s a lot more to it than that,” Bonnell said. “When a man or woman signs up for military duty they signify they will give their all for their country, even their life if necessary; and that as many will sadly testify, is the ultimate sacrifice.”
Bonnell also talked about changes in the military like communication.
“Back in the day we had no cell phones, internet or skype, we depended on letters to home many of which took two months or longer to find their way to the right destination. This often led to confusion like one of the times I was wounded and my wife and children didn’t know if I was dead or alive for four weeks, that’s really hard on a family, more than most people realize,” Bonnell said.
Through it all Bonnell said it was an honor to serve his country and he has much to be thankful for. He closed by again thanking those present for coming and saying he also appreciates all the men and women who are “all over the globe” fighting to protect our country and the freedom of others.
Before coming to a close, poems were read, songs were sung, and Lynn Rainsburg and her husband James set “The table of the POW” — Lynn tearfully explained the way the table was set and what the items on the table stood for.
Students reported the “Jeans for Troops” fundraiser netted $252 and the student body and teachers collected 1322 items for “Operation Gratitude.”
Before closing the assembly, Jackson thanked the Veteran’s Day Committee for their help in providing and preparing the food and praised everyone for their participation and coming to celebrate this year’s Veterans Day assembly.