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Schools rolled it out for veterans

The Baker County Community Theatre production of A Star Spangled Salute, a tribute to military veterans, wrapped up its four-day run on Sunday and I was lucky to have been a part of it.

My father was a Navy veteran who throughout his life was involved in music. He always urged me to do more with my voice and I promised him before he died last April that I would. This unique musical salute to military veterans seemed the perfect way to begin to act on that promise.

Taking the plunge back into community theater after an absence of two decades was a little intimidating. The music part was a breeze, but I haven’t done any acting in so long, I wasn’t sure I still knew how.

The last time I hit the theater stage I played a young Hollywood ingenue conniving to undermine the performance of a more famous and experienced actress.

Skip 20 years forward and I’m playing the part of a mother whose soldier son is sent home temporarily from Afghanistan to recover from an injury.

Both parts required a real shift in mental gears since I have no experience with either situation. But, that’s why it’s called acting.

What didn’t involve any acting was the very real emotion the entire cast experienced night after night as we performed in the presence of so many genuine heros.

What a special privilege to entertain these folks, from a 90-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor to young men currently serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I’d like to give a special salute to the members of Baker County High School’s JROTC who attended each performance and performed their precision drill demonstration during intermission. Their presence on stage was most impressive. They are a special group of young people and I’m very proud of each of them.

It is also my great privilege to report in a different section of The Press this week on the Veterans Day programs put on by some of our local schools.

I wish everyone could have been present to witness the unique musical pledge of allegiance performed by the students at Macclenny Elementary. I won’t forget that, ever, or the photo I shot of student Khai Chrome handing a small American flag to Army veteran Tommy Fiser.

From time to time I’ve come across amazing stories involving veterans throughout this country.

I once read an account of one of these people in Reader’s Digest which to this day astounds me. A Vietnam veteran who lost his eyes and both legs to a land mine was at home one day when he heard a woman screaming at the house next door.

He rolled his wheelchair out to the back yard fence and began calling out, trying to get a response.

None came and the screaming continued. His military training, long dormant, kicked in and he went into combat mode.

Using his arms, this blind and crippled vet pulled his legless body up, maneuvered himself over the top of the fence and dropped to ground below. Then he dragged himself in the direction of the screaming woman who he found clutching the motionless body of her small child she had found floating face down in the swimming pool.

He sent the woman inside to call 911 and began performing CPR on the child. Emergency rescue personnel arrived and later stated the child would never have survived without the vet’s intervention.

Once a soldier, always a soldier.

God bless America. God bless our veterans.

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