Students and community members gathered to honor veterans.
The Seguin High School FFA and NJROTC hosted their third annual Veteran’s Day meeting on Wednesday in the Seguin High School Performing Arts Center.
“We really want to just show people that we care,” Seguin High School sophomore and FFA member Megan Bray,15, said. “So having a meeting every year for our veterans is the best way of doing that. Having them come out and show how much we support them and really thank them for everything that they’ve done, that’s why we do it.”
The event featured recurring guest speaker Craig Russell, a U.S. Navy veteran, as well as many other military-themed ceremonial traditions.
Russell reflected on his life and the history of Veterans Day.
“If you were to describe me as who I am, I would say that I am not a very religious man, but I am a man of deep abiding faith,” he said. “Veterans Day is basically on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in the year of 1911. It was the end of all wars as they called it, Armistice Day, World War I. The day was passed by Congress in 1926 for an annual observance, and over time it became a national holiday in 1938. Unlike Memorial Day and other veteran’s type of days, this one here is meant to honor all veterans deceased and living.”
Russell also shared the story of Daniel Daly, a United States Marine, who received two Medals of Honor – and was nominated for a third – as a result of his bravery.
He explained that Daly single-handedly defended a fortress from being overrun during the Boxer Rebellion and that his story is a testament to the bravery of every American soldier.
“Daly wasn’t an imposing figure at all, but he had the fighting spirit of a giant,” Russell said. “He was left alone with a simple order to hold a crumbling fort wall overnight. As night fell, hordes of Chinese attacked Daly’s position, and with just one man defending it, the enemy thought it would be an easy task…When the sun rose, Daly looked down from his position to see the bodies of over 200 Chinese whose last decision on Earth was to challenge the United States Marine.”
Russell also described another victory of Daly’s during the Battle of Belleau Wood, where he and a casualty-stricken Marine force successfully pushed back German troops in spite of retreating French support. It is because of this victory that the Marines were referred to as “Devil Dogs,” Russell said.
“The first wave of Marines were slaughtered,” Russell said. “Still, they continued with Daly motivating his men with the famous cry ‘Come on, you son-of-a-guns, do you really want to live forever?’ They fought their way into the woods, and for the next 19 days, the Marines fought the Germans without relief. Exhausted, low on food and ammunition, the marines ran through the woods bare-chested with fixed bayonets. On June 26, 1917, it was radioed that Belleau Wood (was won).”
It is because of soldiers like Daly that Americans can rest easy, Russell said.
“Every soldier, every sailor, every airman, and every Marine has that fighting spirit, and it is the reason why people like you and I can sleep well at night,” he said. “Knowing that we’re just not safe, but our enemies lie awake, wide-eyed, fearing the growl of the Devil Dogs. And may God have mercy on any enemy that crosses on American soil.”
As the event came to a close, veterans from the audience were asked to go on-stage to speak as members of the NJROTC folded an American flag.
Among those to take the stage during the folding of the flag was U.S. Army veteran Rudy Guarnero, who attended the event with his grandson 16-year-old Seguin High School junior Larry Martinez.
“I wanted him (Guarnero) to try something new,” Martinez said. “He doesn’t get out of the house much, and he works on the plants and all that not-so-fun-stuff, but I wanted him to try something new to see if he might like it.”
Guarnero said the event was a great way to honor veterans and that he comes from a long line of men and women family members who have also served.
“Larry’s other grandpa who was also in the service couldn’t make it,” Guarnero said. “My daughter was also going to come because she was in the service, but she was in school. We’ve got a whole lot of them: Larry’s aunt, his uncle, and I have three grandsons who are in the Air Force, Army, and Marines right now.”
FFA advisor Bailey Smith said the event was a way to teach students about responsibility.
“I think it was a really good experience for our community and for our kids,” she said. “We hope that our students take something away from this and apply it to their lives so that when they are leaving high school that they have a little piece of them that’s going to guide them the right way and help them figure out what it is they need to do or should do."