JMS embraces veterans

Published 3:29 pm Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans stand on stage during the program. (Photos by Anthony Richards)

Veterans stand on stage during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner.” (Photos by Keith McCoy)

The students at Jemison Middle School invited 21 veterans to be recognized as part of their Veterans Day program on Thursday.

“We want the students to see the veterans and get a feel of all that they have done,” program organizer Julie Lawrence said.

Blayze Franklin opened the ceremony with a prayer, while Jasper Sims provided the closing prayer. Both are seniors at Jemison High School and will enter the military after graduation.

Franklin’s goal is to be an officer in the Air Force and Sims wants to be in the Army.

Girl Scout Troop 337 presented the flag and led those in attendance by reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance.”

A pair of fifth graders showcased their vocal talent, as Emily Sallis sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and Braylon Roberts sang “Amazing Grace,” while the fifth grade choir sang “My Country Tis of Thee.”

Donny Eslinger and Nick Eggers each received a plaque for their service and Benita Chapman introduced Eslinger with a heartfelt account of his fight after he suffered severe injuries to his head and abdomen following an IED explosion.

“It was touch-and-go for several weeks,” Chapman said. “We would wait daily for updates. It was an emotional time for all of us.”

Donny Eslinger receives a plaque and a hug from Jericha Edwards as Benita Chapman introduces him.

Donny Eslinger receives a plaque and a hug from Jericha Edwards as Benita Chapman introduces him.

He was eventually transported to Bethesda, Md. for surgery where they removed part of his skull and put in a metal plate.

Eslinger’s fighting spirit was highlighted throughout Chapman’s speech.

“He was a little spitfire growing up, and that helped him later on in life,” Chapman said.

Gavin Miller is a member of the Jemison High School band and played an emotional rendition of “Taps,” which left very few dry eyes throughout the cafeteria where the program was being held.

“I’m glad to see the community come together,” Eslinger said. “Every year we appreciate that as veterans.”

It was the first year for the program to take place, but something that the school looks to continue moving forward.

“We didn’t know what to expect, but I was very proud of how respectful the kids were to our vets,” Lawrence said.