Rocky Mountain Schools honor veterans with assembly

Erin Mullins

On Thursday, Nov. 9, at 9 a.m. a Veterans Day program was held at the Rocky Mountain High School Gym.
Stands were full across the gym, with community members sitting on one side and students on the other. The assembly started with members of the American Legion posting the colors. After that, the Rocky Mountain choir sang “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood.
Rocky Mountain High School senior Jacob Bischoff introduced the guest speaker, Erica Griffin. Griffin served in the army and currently works as a paraprofessional for Rocky Mountain schools. She focused her speech on how honoring veterans is about more than just saying thank you.
“Sometimes I think that people that haven’t served don’t understand or don’t realize the magnitude of time lost away from families,” she said. “A lot of soldiers and veterans and people that have served, they come back and they’re a different person. It’s important to recognize that and to show them gratitude over their sacrifices.”
Griffin has a family history of service in the military. Her uncle served during Desert Storm, and much of her husband’s family have served in the military. She served both stateside and deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2009. She met her husband in the military.
Sometimes serving in the army was fun, Griffin said, but other times it was challenging. She wanted to communicate to students that it is important to keep serving even when it is not rewarding at the moment.
“That’s what I really wanted them to take away, that they can do it. It doesn’t matter how small they think they are or the things that they do that are small. It’s not insignificant,” Griffin said.
Those who served were asked to stand up to be honored when the branch of the armed forces in which they had served in was announced. The Rocky Mountain choir and high school band performed “Armed Forces: The Pride of America!” by Clark and Gilpin, which features the official songs of all five branches of the military. Those attending recited The Pledge of Allegiance and sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The program closed with retrieval of the flag and “Taps” played by Quinna-Lea Brost and Alex Hedges.
A veteran’s thoughts
Steven Haggard was among those who stood during the assembly. Haggard served in the Air Force from 1998-2004 as a medic, spending late 2001 and half of 2002 in Afghanistan. He said he joined the military both to offset the cost of college and because he was inspired by his dad’s service in Vietnam.
Haggard’s father served in the Navy and Army National Guard but advised his son to join the Air Force because it fit his worldview and personality. Primarily, Haggard worked in emergency room services and evacuating patients to other places.
Haggard never feared for his life during his military service due to his faith.
“I’ve always been a man of faith. I grew up in the South with a strong church background, and I just always knew that was gonna be fine,” he said. “And if it was time for me to go, I would. And if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t. And I got through it.”
Haggard was glad to be able to help the people he did in the military and be a part of something bigger than himself. He made many friends in the Air Force that he still keeps in touch with today.
A recent Cowley resident, Haggard moved to the area last year with his family to be a part of Water of Life Church. He works for Northwest College as an EMS instructor.
It is important to honor veterans and their sacrifices, Haggard said. While he found the military a great way to be a public servant, he says it depends on the individual whether or not they should join.
“I’ve got five kids. Four of my kids absolutely would not fit in. The way their mind works or things they are interested in would not line up,” he said. “But I’ve got one of my five that, absolutely, if she decided she wanted to be a part of the military, I would encourage her to go as far as she could.”