Larry Jones (standing second from left, next to his wife Patti) watches a video along with other family members, featuring Jones’ military service as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam.
Steve Gillespie / Daily Press

By Steve Gillespie

Greene County Tech students shared their appreciation for veterans, and each of the armed services Thursday during the high school’s annual Veteran Day Celebration.

Members of the Band and Choir, Chamber Singers and Thespians, and Junior ROTC participated in the program, which included the induction of three veterans into the GCT Hall of Fame: Larry Jones, Barney Kiestler, and Peggy Scoville.

Jones worked for many years at Emerson Electric in Paragould. He is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam. His commendations include the National Defense Service medal and a Bronze Star.

Kiestler was a farmer. He passed away 22 years ago. He was a World War II U.S. Army veteran who served in the Pacific, and earned two Bronze Stars among his many commendations.

Scoville, of Walcott, is a 1974 graduate of Greene County Tech. She earned a degree in psychology, and served in the U.S. Air Force for 19 years. She served in Desert Storm and other various locations during her military career, earning the Air Force Commendation medal and National Defense Service medal among other awards.

Scoville said Thursday’s program was “very impressive,” and that she thinks all young people should join a military service. “It’s an honorable institution,” she said.

The special guest speaker Thursday was U.S. Army retired Col. Nate Todd, director of the Arkansas Department of Veteran Affairs.

His message in part was that freedom isn’t free, because there are always those who want to tear it down, and that he has no doubt the young people of today, like the students at GCT, will answer the call when freedom is challenged, just as their relatives did before them.

He also reminded those present of the many freedoms veterans protect.

“It is the veteran that is also the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion. It is the veteran that is also the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press,” Todd said. “It is the veteran that is also the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the veteran that is also the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble. It is the veteran that is also the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the veteran who is also the politician who has given us the right to vote. It is the veteran who salutes the flag. It is the veteran who serves under the flag, whose casket is draped by the flag that those that protest may kneel and still be protected by the flag of the United States of America.”

Todd, originally from Pine Bluff, joined the U.S. Army straight out of high school, and served from 1976-1980 before going to college on the G.I Bill, then returning to active duty from 1985-2013. He was appointed director of the Arkansas Department of Veteran Affairs by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2017.

Students honor veterans

Here are some excerpts from things written by Greene County Tech High School students that were shared on a large screen in the auditorium before Thursday’s Veterans’ Day Celebration began:

• “There is a plaque. One that is as black as the night sky and shimmers like the stars. A plaque that holds the weight of thousands of names; in a place that millions more come to see. A place where names are traced and touched by thankful fingertips. Where names are not just names, but the lives given for the country we live in today.” — Olivia Rowe

• “Veterans have given up many aspects of their life solely for our country to have the freedom that it does. Sometimes this includes their own lives.” — Emily Gray

• “The battlefield is a sacred place where stories are written, but some will never be told.” — Callie Mace

• “They don’t just attend boot camp and get a few shiny medals here and there; they protect everything we know.” — Morrigan Crist

• “Imagine being that young man, or boy rather, running off a landing craft in June 1944, straight into the teeth of the toughest defense Nazi Germany had to offer; it is because of men like that that we can [have our freedoms] like we do.” — Jacob Huffmaster



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