Sacrifice is a key trait among veterans and for some that means making the ultimate decision to lose one’s life in the service of others.
That was a major thread in the Veterans Day assembly Nov. 11 at Hilltop Schools in West Unity. The gymnasium was packed with students in grades K-12 in the bleachers and the floor filled with veterans and families.
Teacher Cameron Thompson was the main speaker. A veteran with 5 ½ years of military service (including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan), Thompson shared his experiences in the military and that of a another man, Rick Rescorla, a British native, who later fought for the U.S. Army in Vietnam due to his strong anti-Communist views.
Thompson said Rescorla was loved by his men and would sing to them to keep them calm during times of battle. His image was used on the cover of the book, “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young.” That book would later be in the inspiration for a Mel Gibson movie.
Rescorla later became the security chief for Morgan Stanley and when the financial giant moved into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, the former soldier saw the dangers the location had. The company housed 2,700 workers on 22 floors and Rescorla would hold evacuation drills every three months.
When the north tower was hit by a plane Sept. 11, 2001, Rescorla put his military and security experience to work and ordered all the employees out, even though Port Authority officials told everyone to remain at their desks.
In the 16 minutes after the first tower had been hit, Rescorla evacuated more than 2,700 people out of the tower which had been hit as well.
Just has he did in Vietnam, Rescorla sang to the employees and guests as they made their way down the stairs to safety, Thompson said.
He went back up to find stragglers and was last seen on the 10th floor.
Thompson said due to Rescorla’s efforts, Morgan Stanley lost only six of 2,700 employees. That included Rescorla and two of his security team.
It was that legacy that Thompson said that made the assembly so special. He addressed different groups at the assembly in connection to the day.
“Students, please note, that when we hear your performing in the program with such reverence and respect, that our hearts do swell with pride,” Thompson said. The pride the students showed to the nation and the veterans and to keeping the memories that have gone before made an impression, he said.
“Thank you so much for a job well done so far and what is yet to come,” Thompson said.
Much honor was given to the veterans who came from all walks of life to the live up to the ideals of courage, pride, determination, duty and integrity. Thompson said. These were the qualities needed to serve a cause greater than themselves, he said.
“To our veterans, you paid a dear price,” Thompson said. “Some have paid the ultimate price.
“We pay tribute to you and remember your sacrifice, your faith and the courage it took for you to defend duty, honor and love of country.
“Rick Rescorla understood that more than anyone else.”
The sacrifice of the veterans makes them heroes and what they did will never be forgotten, Thompson said. The family members of services members in the audience were honored as well.
The program had students from grades 3 and 4 singing patrotic songs, with other contributions from the Women’s Chorus and the high school choir.
The Hilltop Band performed the anthems of each branch of the service as various veterans stood.
Several students from the high school speech class spoke at different points to introduce a song or speaker: Caiden Miller, Shelby Kuney, Leah Carothers and Christian Rojo.
James Pruitt may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org