Schools to Observe Veterans Day

Weakley County to Celebrate Veterans with COVID-Precaution Twists
Posted on 11/05/2020
This is the image for the news article titled Weakley County to Celebrate Veterans with COVID-Precaution TwistsNurse Beth Kempton has more than 20 years with Weakley County Schools and she deems the attention faculty and students pay during the annual Veterans Day observances as “awesome.” Having served in both the Army and Navy Reserve, she values the appreciation shown as well as the lessons students can learn.

However, as the supervisor of school nurses across the district and as Westview’s nurse, Kempton is also aware of the risk that assemblies and inviting guests on to school properties during a pandemic can present. As a result, she’s glad schools have gotten creative in their approaches to November 11 while staying cautious.

“We have 14 veterans employed in our system,” noted Randy Frazier, director of Weakley County Schools. “And we have hundreds of veterans in our communities. We want each of them to know how much we appreciate their service. But we also want to keep them safe. The steps our schools are taking to do both are to be commended.”

Plans are underway for Gleason, Martin Elementary, Martin Middle and Sharon to present programs online and via videos especially produced for classrooms to view. Westview students were encouraged to assist the American Legion Post #55 Riders in placing tea lights and flags on the graves of fallen veterans.

Greenfield and Dresden Middle School are taking their recognitions outdoors with parades planned. Both will socially distance students along the parade route with DMS inviting Dresden Elementary to participate. Students’ tributes will be visible as veterans pass by. (Veterans are encouraged to contact schools if they wish to participate.)

No matter what format the observances follow, the veterans working within Weakley County Schools are pleased that the effort is being made to ensure the time to reflect is not lost.

Along with Kempton at Westview are fellow veterans Ed Baker, TN Air National Guard; and School Resource Officer Jason Arrant who served in the U.S. Air Force.

In the Transportation Department, veterans include David Campbell, Navy; Dee House, Army; Ronald Plunk, Army, and David Hugueley, Army. Hugueley also works at Gleason and Dresden K-8 cafeterias. Mike Shannon, who works in the Maintenance Department, is a Navy veteran.

At Dresden High School, Steve Jaco was Army; Tim Evans, United States Marine Corps; Stacey Needham, Tennessee Army National Guard (1174th Transportation Company)/US Army (1st Infantry Division -- Operation Desert Shield/Storm); and the new School Resource Officer Ryan Schaeffer served in the United States Marine Corps.

Veterans on the Martin Elementary School campus are SRO Adam Stringer, Navy, and Rachel Anderson, Army.

The value of taking time each year to honor veterans comes, in part says SRO Arrant, in encouraging students to look beyond their immediate situations.

“I hope they get that there’s a whole world out there … [that they] quit looking at what is just right in front of them and realize the freedom that they enjoy right now comes at a price,” he noted. “Not that we expect them to come up and love on us and hug us or buy our meals or anything, but just the appreciation that somebody did do that, the gratitude for the privileges they get without even asking for it.”

Jaco notes that with teens that larger perspective may be hard to come by.

“It’s hard for them to possibly realize what all veterans go through,” he said. “Not just the training but being deployed and being away from family.”

Evans sees taking a day to reflect can translate into a different kind of future. “I hope they see men and women in this country still are answering the call to protect this country and to protect the rights that we have. What I would like for them always to take away is that other men and women have answered that call and if it ever happens in their life, they can find the courage to answer that call as well.”

Weakley County saw 14 of its more than 260 graduates last year pursue a path in the military.

When asked how time in the military helped equip them to work within the school system, most replied discipline was a definite takeaway.

Needham noted, “If I have to get strict, if I have to get tough, I can get tough. I can turn on that side.”

Bus drivers agreed that mastering the “stern stare” had come in handy.

Evans put the spotlight on self-discipline, “There’s a lot of things you learn in the military about being in the right place at the right time, showing up always for the fight, those types of things make you very valuable as an employee in the school system because you need to be here every day and you need to show up for these kids and you need to always have an answer.”

Baker says being pushed to one’s limit and then discovering more to give is a benefit of military service.

“The main thing I try to tell some of my kids about my military experience is you don’t know what you are capable of.… They haven’t been told yet, it hasn’t been shown to them what they are capable of accomplishing. And I think that when you go through the military experience, you learn that.”

WCS veterans
Weakley County Schools employs 14 veterans. (clockwise, left to right) Ed Baker, Beth Kempton, and SRO Jason Arrant are at Westview. SRO Ryan Schaeffer, Tim Evans, Stacey Needham, and Steve Jaco are at Dresden High School. Mike Shannon is with the Maintenance Department. In the Transportation Department are Dee House, Ronald Plunk, and David Campbell. Rachel Anderson is at Martin Elementary. David Hugueley is a bus driver and works at Gleason and Dresden K-8 cafeterias. SRO Adam Stringer is also at MES.