Lakeside Middle School honored veterans, active military and public servants during its fifth annual Veterans Day program, titled A Hero's Calling.
About 1,300 people attended the event Friday.
Guest speakers included Army Capt. Chris Quale, who served in Iraq and was awarded the Bronze Star. Augusta Chronicle special projects reporter Johnny Edwards also spoke about experiences while embedded earlier this year with an Augusta-based Army Reserve unit in Iraq.
Gayla DeBose, who served in the Navy from 1983 to 1995, was one of many who signed a veterans' board outside the auditorium. Her daughter, Alana, a seventh-grader, wore the jacket DeBose wore when she was deployed to Operation Dessert Storm.
"I am glad the kids are participants in a program that honors veterans," said DeBose, who is now a teacher.
Quale talked about the virtues of loyalty, discipline, selfless acts, integrity and personal courage.
"Every day you are faced with the opportunity to choose a right or a wrong," he told the pupils. "If you choose the right path on the little things, it will become a habit, and you will continue to choose the right path into your adult life."
Personal courage, he said, was what led him to take that first leap out of an airplane and the first step sliding down a rope out of a helicopter. Courage also is the strength to endure, he said.
"When we were deployed to Iraq, we thought we would be gone for 45 days. Families had plans that their sons or daughters would be home for Thanksgiving," Quale said. "I had to stand in front of my soldiers and tell them that they would be going home at an undetermined date in the future."
Edwards painted a vivid picture of what life was like in Iraq and the respect he earned for the men and women in the Army Reserves who brought fuel to the troops.
"Without fuel everything would stop," he said. "Even the computers need fuel because they run on generators that need gasoline.
"What a strange type of courage it took to do what they did. It's one thing to stand up to a bully, play lineman on a football team or ask a pretty girl out, but to do a job where you ride around in the desert - in a strange place - knowing that any minute you might get shot or step on a land mine."
He said the soldiers dealt with their anxiety through humor. The most intense moments, he said, were at the beginning of the war when it was not known if the Iraqis had biological weapons.
"Every time I would put on the (gas) mask, my heart would pound, and I would think, 'This is the one,"' he said.
Edwards took a trip with the Marines into Baghdad after our troops had taken control of the city.
"It looked like spring break at Panama City," he said. "People were looting and taking weird things out of buildings. There was a man with a cart pulled by a donkey with a load of fluorescent lights, a boy with a giant can of tomato sauce and a man with a hard drive in one hand and a keyboard in another."
Lakeside Middle's choruses and band presented several musical selections during the event.
Also, three poems were read during the event.
Nick Shelton read War Is Hell,, a poem written by his father, Steve, for his father Ed Burbage, a World War II veteran. Our Soldiers was written by Ralph Marcano and read by Ashton Marcano, and Who Are They was written and read by Carolyn Turner, daughter of Rob and Lori Turner.
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