Music touches hearts at Millersburg Veterans Day celebration

Music touches hearts at Millersburg Veterans Day celebration
Dave Mast

Bill Sampsel and his granddaughter Amy Sampsel enjoy some time together during the annual Millersburg Elementary Veterans Day gathering on Monday, Nov. 11.


Each year there are countless celebrations around Holmes County in which area youth honor the many area veterans who have given so much in the name of serving their country and protecting America’s freedoms.

During the annual Millersburg Elementary Veterans Day ceremony on Monday, Nov. 11, there was plenty of sharing as veterans came to the microphone to introduce themselves and the children, grandchildren, and nieces and nephews who invited them to the gala.

The veterans came early and shared hot chocolate and muffins with their young family members and were given the red-carpet treatment, but perhaps the most touching portion of the event was when the entire student body sang “America to Me,” a song about daily life in America that has been granted in large part due to the service of the nation’s veterans.

The song brought some teary eyes to many of the veterans and even others as the children sang.

“The children know we have all of these blessings because of you,” Millersburg Elementary music teacher Georgia Jaeb said to the veterans. “They know your sacrifices are what led us to have these things.”

For the veterans, the music and the time taken to create such a tribute was well worth the trip to school.

“That was very emotional,” said veteran Ray Eyler, who served two tours with the U.S. Navy from 1963-67. “I know I started to tear up a bit, and I think many of the other veterans did, too. I am grateful to be here to be part of this, and I know this means a great deal to each of the veterans here today.”

Jennifer Steiner served with the U.S. Navy from 2001-09. She said the song was something special and meaningful for all of the veterans.

“I thought it was really great the way the kids came together and really sang for us in a very heartfelt way,” Steiner said. “We appreciate them taking the time to prepare something like that. It shows that they appreciate the veterans and the service we gave to our country. I think more than anything it feels good coming from the children.”

Millersburg Elementary principal Renee Woods said creating a meaningful experience for the veterans is something the school truly enjoys each year, and having the students invite loved ones who served only adds to the purpose behind the event. She said there is something special and powerful about a large group of children singing that can tug at the heartstrings like nothing else, but she added that the entirety of the ceremony serves a greater purpose.

“I think it is critical for our students to understand the depth of what our veterans have done for our country,” Woods said. “There is a great amount of respect that accompanies this, and it is also a learning experience for our students.”

After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, the student body sang “Grand Old Flag” before veteran Caleb Miller, who served in the U.S. Army from 2000-04, joined his children Ian and Magnolia Miller, who are currently fifth-grade and kindergarten students, respectively, at Millersburg, for a flag presentation that detailed what the United States flag’s many parts represent.

“The U.S. flag is an example of our freedom,” Ian Miller said. “Many men and women served in our military and even died to preserve our freedom. We want to always respect our flag and remember and thank the veterans for all that they have done for us.”

Following that, each veteran in attendance took their turn at the microphone, being given an opportunity for the students to show their appreciation for their service.

“You are the reason we serve,” said veteran John Damron, who was attending with his grandson Troy Porte, to the student body during introductions.

The ceremony concluded with “America to Me” before classes were dismissed to go back to their rooms. Many of the veterans ventured to classrooms to further chat with the students while the fifth-grade students remained in the auditorium, where a group of five veterans remained behind to talk to them.

“This type of thing really means so much to each of us because these young people are showing respect,” said veteran William Sampsel, who served in the U.S. Army from 1968-69. He was there with his grandchildren: fourth-grader Tinley Sampsel and second-grader Calie Conner.

They were one of just many families who celebrated the service, honor and respect Veterans Day was meant to provide for the nation.

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