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Clear Spring students get patriotic reminder

November 30, 1999|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

CLEAR SPRING ? With music, poetry, pictures, speeches and a dose of red, white and blue, Clear Spring High School on Friday honored America's war veterans.

A full auditorium heard the Blazer band play marches, the choir sing a military medley and Johnny Cash's tribute to the U.S. flag.

Philip Surprenant of Odenton, Md., a past department commander of the American Legion in Maryland, described the bond veterans share through their oath to defend their country.

Clear Spring social studies teacher James Hutson traced Veterans Day from its roots as Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I in 1918.

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Other Washington County high schools talk about Veterans Day, but the ones in Clear Spring and Hancock honor the day more elaborately, school district spokeswoman Carol Mowen said.

Clear Spring High School's ceremony started about 15 years ago, said Hutson, a former Marine who served in Vietnam and Japan. He has organized the event the last eight years.

Hutson said he sticks with the same elements, including a PowerPoint picture display of veterans related to staff and students.

From "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the start to taps at the end, the student audience paid attention, for which Hutson thanked them.

A U.S. flag hung at the rear of the stage. A printed program says the flag was draped on the coffin of Thomas Richard McCammon, who was serving with the 29th Infantry Division when he was killed on D-Day, the Allied invasion of France, on June 6, 1944.

Hutson characterized a veteran as "a person who, when told to take the hill, didn't head for the hills."

He read aloud from "In Flanders Field," written in 1915 by a lieutenant colonel in the Canadian Army: "We are the Dead. Short days ago/We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow ..."

Senior Erica Hernandez recited "What is a veteran?" which has been attributed to more than one author. One answer, the piece says: "He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel."

Surprenant told the audience that he asked American Legion headquarters for a speech tailored to high school, then was disappointed there wasn't one.

Surprenant, who served with the Air Force in Vietnam and elsewhere, stressed the importance of veterans' health care and listed the American Legion's offerings, such as an oratorical contest about the Constitution.

To students at least 16 years old, he left one mandate.

"Two years from now, you will help elect our next president," Surprenant said. "Vote."

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