Veterans Day Assembly

Assembly connects students with those who served
Posted on 11/15/2013

The annual Veterans Day Assembly at the 5th & 6th Grade Center is in good hands, it was apparent on Monday, Nov. 11.

During his introduction, it was noted that Charles Brown—who began as 5/6 principal this school year—retired from the United States Air Force as a master sergeant. He inherited the Veterans Day Assembly, which has been a tradition of the 5th & 6th Grade Center since 1997.

This year’s program was particularly memorable for the students, featuring a Poplar Bluff native and hero paving the way in Afghanistan, Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Gulley of the 101st Airborne Division.

“Today is a good day. I am free and I’m alive because good men stood up out of necessity,” stated Gulley, who also served multiple tours of duty in Iraq. “I’ve seen the world and I know, freedom is not the rule, it’s the exception.”

Deflecting praise, the dutiful and humble Gulley recognized sixth grader Cali Murphy in the audience for sending his infantry overseas stockings last Christmas, which he noted included the best peppermints they ever tasted. He presented the 11-year-old girl a certificate and an emblem before an audience that included veterans of all branches.

Cali’s mother Jessica Miller attended Poplar Bluff High School with Gulley and was instrumental in seeing that the care packages reached the 101st Airborne Division.

“He’s always been the same guy,” Miller said of Gulley. “I’m surprised he got so big and strong, but I am not surprised of the character he showed when he gave his speech.”

Gulley also recognized Luann Elledge, who now works as a guidance counselor at the Junior High, for serving as a liaison in reconnecting the soldier with the Poplar Bluff R-I School District last year. He has also made individual classroom visits.

Before Gulley’s keynote speech, Honor Tour founder Rob Callahan, who also served 20 years in the Air Force, talked about his 12th trip with World War II and Korean War veterans to see the memorials in Washington, D.C., earlier this month

“This is the greatest, most rewarding, emotionally draining thing I’ve done in my life,” Callahan said.

Janet Abernathy, a retired school counselor, was recognized for originally starting the Veterans Day Assembly 17 years ago. Staff Sgt. Allen Kanell of the U.S. National Guard was credited for helping to coordinate the event in years past.

The assembly concluded with the entire student body singing “A Grateful Nation” under the direction of vocal music teacher Kristy Weaver.

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Cutline: On Veterans Day, Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Gulley presents Cali Murphy, 11, of the Poplar Bluff 5th & 6th Grade Center with a certificate for sending Christmas presents to the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan.

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