Monday, November 26, 2012

Warthog pilot speaks to GHS students

By Special to the Democrat
Greenwood Democrat
Wednesday, November 14, 2012 12:16 PM CST

Greenwood graduates have put the Bulldog paw prints all over the world in their service within all branches of the military, 188th Fighter Wing Capt. William James "B.J." Ginger told students and their families Friday during the students' annual assembly honoring veterans.

Ginger, the event's guest speaker and an A10 Warthog pilot, is himself a 1997 graduate of Greenwood High School.

Returned just last month from several months of deployment to Afghanistan, Ginger appeared at the podium wearing his flight suit. In his 13 1/2 years in the Air National Guard, he said, he's been on several deployments and enjoyed them immensely. This most recent deployment was his busiest, he said, noting that he flew 69 missions.

"Man, it is good to be home, not just back on U.S. soil but back home in Greenwood, Ark., home of the Bulldogs!" Ginger said to hearty audience applause.

Event attendees included students, teachers, their families, dozens of veterans and active-service military, city and civic leaders. They were greeted upon arrival with salutes and respectful "good mornings" from Greenwood High School Junior ROTC cadets in full dress uniforms. The military attendees, many in dress uniform themselves, responded with salutes.

Songs about battle played in the background as people filed into the district's Performing Arts Center. The lobby and auditorium were replete with displays honoring active military and veterans dead and alive. Patriotic scenes played over two large video screens, and the stage featured an American flag backdrop.

The students themselves led the event.

The cadets opened with a presentation of colors. Student Taylor Wormwood led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, and student Sarah Hocott belted out the national anthem.

Student Bethany Skaggs told the audience Veterans Day originated with Armistice Day.

"On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the (World War I) armistice was announced. Although the armistice didn't last, the day of honor remained and eventually became Veterans Day, honoring all U.S. veterans," Skaggs said.

The students honored local veterans by their decade of service, welcoming first the veterans of the 21st century. Four paraded across the stage, escorted by JROTC cadets. The veterans of the 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, 1960s, 1950s and 1940s were honored similarly, dozens in all.

Each decade's veterans were honored, too, with the playing of music contemporary to their service time, and a video clip of major events and leaders of those times, and details such as the artists, costs of living and technology of that decade. By the time the 11 local veterans of the 1980s paraded across the stage, the audience was clapping in cadence with the music and many were moving their feet in time to the music.

Student Morgan Kratts said the students spent months collecting photos of Greenwood veterans for a veterans video played for the audience. It began with a May 1, 1917, photo of a town square celebration honoring the Greenwood men then leaving to serve in World War I. It ended to lengthy audience applause.

The Greenwood High School and Junior High School Male Chorus honored fallen veterans with a trumpet solo by Riley George, then a haunting rendition of "Mansions of the Lord," by Nick Glennie-Smith and Randall Wallace, arranged by Benjamin Harlan.

The program included a prisoner of war/missing in action remembrance and a celebration of military moms.

Ginger asked the students to honor their fallen heroes by doing well in school, going out into the world and succeeding, then bringing that success back to Greenwood.

"Everyday is a good day to be an American. God bless," Ginger said, exiting the stage to a standing ovation.


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