A tribute to veterans

By Josette Keelor

FRONT ROYAL — A ceremony at Warren County Middle School on Friday honored veterans with music, presentations by veterans and the naming of students escorting loved ones who have served in the U.S. military.

The chorus and an a capella group at Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal performed patriotic music, the academy’s color guard presented colors, Boy Scouts from the middle school recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sixth grader Shakira Porter sang “God Bless America.”

Guest speakers were Sgt. Arthur “Bunky” Woods of Browntown and TSgt. Tina Laing, a teacher at Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal. Both spoke about their experiences in the military and on the support soldiers need from all Americans.

Woods was paralyzed after being shot in the neck by a sniper in Baghdad on a second tour in Iraq with the Army Rangers.

“It’s not the war that makes us do what we do,” he said. “It’s the bond of brotherhood.”

“The war is [a] hostile and ever-changing place. The one thing that remains constant is the American soldier.”

Thanking veterans who attended Friday’s ceremony, he asked all those assembled to stand behind America’s soldiers.

Laing started teaching at Randolph-Macon on June 4, 2014 — 10 years to the day after retiring from active duty in the military. She said it’s a reminder to her of God’s presence in her life.

Speaking on the importance of teamwork in all aspects of life, she remembered a soldier honored for saving 36 fellow soldiers on a mission that killed many of his friends.

“[The military is] a strong bond that’s stronger than any family I’ve ever known,” Laing said.

But her recovery team came in the form of family, friends and fellow military. They saved Laing when she had all but given up on life after suffering emotional trauma following her deployment overseas in 2002.

“My war was different,” she told the crowd. “… When I came home, I wasn’t the same.”

“I pushed my family out, I pushed my friends away. … I hid in my dark world.”

She said they saved her life and helped her become the mother her now 9-year-old daughter deserves.

“My war is finally over,” she said.

Organized by seventh-grade math teacher Alison Snapp, the Veterans Day tribute is in its second year. Snapp brought the idea from Spring Mills High School in Martinsburg, West Virginia, after realizing Warren County didn’t have a school-based Veterans Day program.

“I got goose bumps when I worked at the West Virginia school, and they [the veterans] were just so appreciative and the students actually really took to heart what they were doing and had an understanding of what Veterans Day was,” she said. “It gave them a little bit of understanding.”

“I said, shoot, I can do this. It’s a lot of work, but hopefully each year we’re getting better.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com>