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Ironton High rolls out the welcome mat

With a massive American flag as the back drop, Ironton High School students hosted an emotional assembly Monday honoring the veterans who defended our freedoms.

"In my mind, this is probably the most important assembly we will have this year, even more so than graduation," Principal Dean Nance said to the students. "If it was not for the people we are honoring today, half of you would not see graduation or even be allowed to come to school everyday."

Attending veterans received a standing ovation as they entered and exited the auditorium. The IHS Singers set the patriotic mood with renditions of the National Anthem, "The Battle Cry of Freedom, "God Bless the U.S.A.," and others.

The idea began small as Joan Lux's junior English classes worked on a three week assignment that grew into the ceremony commemorating Veteran's Day for the entire school .

As part of the class project, approximately 85 students interviewed veterans or their families about their experiences in the wars America has fought.

"The fact that students were involved from the start causes it to be an emotional experience for everyone," Lux said with tears in her eyes. Veterans are particularly dear to her because her grandfather Dr. George Golden Hunter served in World War I and II and passed away on Veteran's Day in 1959.

Jessica Near shared her interview about her grandfather Louis Bryant with her peers. He served in World War II and stormed Omaha Beach in June 1944 as part of the Normandy invasion.

"Though I never knew my grandfather, I feel as if I did and am grateful for a chance to honor him today," Near said.

Guest speaker Judge Frank McCown said we owe a debt to all the veterans who have insured our freedom.

"To those who serve, we owe our eternal gratitude," he said. "For those who never come home, we must never forget."

McCown said he wants to encourage everyone to go to Woodland Cemetery and walk Patriots Point.

"Walk the bricks, look at the sayings on the stones and say how lucky we are and reflect on what veterans have given us," he said. "I hope you can all say, "I am proud to be an American and America is proud of me'."

Vietnam veteran Butch Huff also spoke about the importance of supporting our veterans and our country.

"I chose not to wear an American flag after Sept. 11. I said, 'My flag waves in here 24-hours a day, 7-days a week'," he said as he tapped his heart.

Korean War veteran and Ironton native Jim Coburn served in the Air Force for 4 years, 1 in Vietnam. He said he was proud that the young students were so willing to get involved and it just reflects the changing sentiments of the country.

"It seems as if the country itself is more involved in Veteran's Day this year," he said. "People are finally starting to appreciate what has been done."

Meghan O'Brien, junior class president said she and the student body as a whole was proud of the ceremony and happy to be able to honor people so deserving.

More than 25 veterans and their families attended a breakfast sponsored by the GEARUP Program (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) prior to the assembly and about 10 veterans stayed for the ceremony.