TONASKET — Tonasket High School held their first in person Veterans Day assembly since 2019 on Nov. 10, bringing in around 55 guests, community members and veterans.
The assembly was led by the school’s student body (ASB) president, Madeline Ashmore, and Gracia Ellis. The two seniors opened with a speech led by Ashmore welcoming the community, thanking veterans, and giving a brief overview on the history of Veterans Day.
“We have veterans from our community here with us today for the first time since 2019, something that I am incredibly humbled by and grateful for,” Ashmore said. “We are honoring all of our veterans here with us, and all of our veterans who could not stand here today. On behalf of our ASB and student body, thank you for your service.”
Veterans Day was first known as Armistice Day, a day to celebrate the end of World War I. The very first time we celebrated this holiday as we know it today was in Birmingham, Alabama in 1947, and it was organized by World War II veteran Raymond Weeks.
Congress passed a bill in 1954, then signed by President Dwight Eisenhower, that proclaimed Nov. 11 as Veterans Day. Weeks then received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Ronald Reagan in November of 1982.
“Raymond Weeks made it a priority for our country to honor those who have long protected the freedom that we have, and that priority still stands today. The students in this room are the future leaders, innovators, and changemakers of America, and we would not be able to continue the legacy of our forefathers without our veterans,” Ashmore said in her speech.
Ashmore is an Ambassador Girl Scout with the Juliette program in Okanogan County and led a presentation of the colors. She walked alongside her fellow ASB officers, ASB school board representative Marrissa Timm, and the ASB Vice President of Publicity Maricela Reynoso.
After the presentation of the flags, Ellis sang the national anthem. A moment of silence for those who had fallen was followed by a presentation from Ellis on the history and importance of poppies and Veterans Day.
Ellis is also a secretary with the Women’s Auxiliary and connected the importance of poppies to Veterans Day with the Auxiliary as well. After she was done speaking about poppies, Ellis then introduced Quilts of Valor and invited Patti Hill to present the quilts to four local veterans.
Roland Morrison, Kurt Howard, John Jones, and Bernard Strong were all honored. The school’s agriculture teacher, Brian Ellis, walked 100 miles last year and raised $8,000 for the quilt program.
Gracie Fletcher, another Tonasket senior, and Ashmore then read poems honoring veterans. Afterwards, Ashmore introduced the afternoon’s guest speaker, retired Colonel Brian Newberry of the US Air Force.
Newberry is the current CEO of Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. He entered the Air Force in 1991 as a distinguished military graduate of the United States Air Force Academy. He retired from the Air Force in 2014 and has since been serving his community in numerous other positions.
After Newberry’s speech, a short film created by Roberta Scholz was shown. The assembly then concluded with community veterans being invited to speak. The US Armed Forces Legacy in Tonasket brought a display table for items that veterans within the community wanted to show.
Anita Asmussen’s leadership class led the way with decorating the high school commons for this event and did a wonderful job. The setting up for the assembly was a team effort for many students and staff within the school. The school’s FBLA provided refreshments for our veterans and community members, which were greatly appreciated and enjoyed by all. The yearbook class did a fantastic job of taking pictures as well.
If you have a veteran in your life who has been touched by war that you’d like to honor, please contact Asmussen, or visit www.qovf.org, for information about Quilts of Valor.
Finally, veterans, thank you for your service.
“The heroes that we are honoring today come from all walks of life, but they share fundamental values: dedication to duty and integrity, selflessness, and the courage to stand for our freedom in the face of the unknown,” Ashmore said to end her speech.