The packed auditorium burst into applause as the feed to Camp Arifjan went live this afternoon during Doctor Franklin Perkins School’s fourth annual Veterans Day celebration. Camp Arifjan is a United States Army installation in Kuwait that serves as a forward logistics base, acting as a gateway to all other bases within the Southwest Asia region and is home to all branches of the U.S. military, including NATO forces. The USO center here has been on Camp Arifjan since November 2013. Today, four soldiers from Camp Arifjan joined us live in the Janeway auditorium via video feed.
The sight of the soldiers smiling and applauding for our students as they read poems and letters for them was moving. How can you not be touched when you are staring at the faces of the men and women who are awaiting deployment to continue to fight for our freedom? How can the students and staff members in the audience, and those about to speak on the importance of Veterans Day, not suddenly feel the real truth of what it means to be a Veteran?
Thanks to the amazing work of HB Communications and Tom Wing, a Perkins ambassador and long -time supporter of our programs, Perkins CTO Peter Carlson and Lisa Choi the Duty Manager from USO Camp Arifjan, the soldiers were able to be live on the screen throughout the 45 minute program. They spoke, they listened, but most of all they reminded all in attendance of what Veterans Day is truly about.
The program was opened by Education Director Cindy Wing who spoke about her family’s involvement in the Marines. “We honor those who serve today,” Cindy said. “We thank you for protecting our country.” She then introduced State Rep. Harold Naughton Jr. who just recently returned from a tour of duty. “You are speaking to an exceptionally large group of amazing students here at the Doctor Franklin Perkins School,” Rep. Naughton said to the soldiers at Camp Arifjan. “They and I wish to thank you for all that you do. I was in transition in the tents at Camp Arifjan in June and I know how hot it is, and I know your family misses you. Please know your sacrifices are appreciated. Thank you, stay safe, and if there is anything we can do, please let us know.”
Several students read poems and letters, some of which they wrote, addressing the soldiers at Camp Arifjan, as well as the dozen or so Veterans in the audience. Kelsey Bodwell wrote an acrostic poem using the word veterans as her starting point, “Veterans are: very happy, eagerly waiting, a golden heart, thank you, everyday fighting for freedom,” she wrote. Cole Moore used several analogies in his poem called Dear Veterans, “You can fight like a bull, you are as smart as a robot, and as strong as metal.” Anthony Enman explained what Veterans Day is and expressed his thanks in his reading. “I would like to personally thank all who are fighting for America,” Anthony said. “You are doing an amazing job.”
Last on the program were Rick Cande and Nancy Johnson singing the 1966 hit the Ballad of the Green Berets. “This song was the first that put the military in a positive light,” Rick said. “It was number one on the Billboards easy listening chart and number two on the Billboards country chart. It was written for James Gabriel Jr. who was the first native Hawaiian to die in Vietnam. The song debuted on the Ed Sullivan show in 1966.”
At the close of the program one of the soldiers from Kuwait said, “On behalf of all of us – the soldiers, USO and civilians – thank you for recognizing us. We stand on your shoulders to hold this country and fight for your freedom.”