SMITHVILLE — Hundreds attended Smithville High School's annual Veterans Day Assembly Monday, Nov. 11, to recognize area veterans and thank them for their service.
For the third and final year, senior Molli Atkinson spoke to the crowd about the families of veterans and how important and valuable service members have been to her.
"I thought to myself, 'How do I make this year's (speech) different and mean something to everyone?'" Atkinson said. "Just like any good Marine, I adopted and overcame."
Atkinson encouraged people to talk to veterans every chance they get and thanked the veterans in attendance for their sacrifices, which ranged from injury to time away from family.
"Superheroes aren't the ones in capes and masks like we grew up thinking," she said. "They are the men and women next to me who wore dog tags and combat boots and made the ultimate sacrifice for you, me and everyone else in America."
Following Atkinson was Rhiannon Maynes and Eli Fox, who expressed similar sentiments. Maynes, a junior, prioritized the importance of Veterans Day.
"One hundred and one years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the armistice to end fighting and World War I was signed," she said. "Originally, this day was to honor those who fought in the Great War. Now, 101 years later, many more soldiers have fought in countless combats. We not only recognize those who bravely fought in WWI, but all soldiers who fought in all wars."
Fox, who has joined the Army National Guard, spoke about the soldiers who came before him, providing freedom to those of this nation. His words inspired a standing ovation.
"We cannot forget to recognize that no veteran who goes to war comes back the same," he said. "My dad was called to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom, not once, not twice but four combat tours, the longest being 15 months. As one who has had to leave home as well as watch my dad fly away, I find leaving much easier because I know what is going on and I don't have to go to bed at night wondering if my dad is OK."
Keynote speaker Derrick Stinnett reminded the audience to recognize veterans, thank them and encourage them. He also told everyone to remember 17, for 17 veterans commit suicide every day, adding there are not enough programs in the country to support veterans in need.
The students of today, he said, are the only ones who can make a difference and a change for the future.