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Veterans get their day with help from students at Middletown Area Middle School

By David Barr

davidbarr@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 11/14/17

For nearly 20 years, Tracy Brown has answered the call when he’s been asked to do so. It’s a trait needed by a soldier.

On Friday, Nov. 10, Brown once again responded in a time of …

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Veterans get their day with help from students at Middletown Area Middle School

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For nearly 20 years, Tracy Brown has answered the call when he’s been asked to do so. It’s a trait needed by a soldier.

On Friday, Nov. 10, Brown once again responded in a time of need. This time it wasn’t his country calling. It was his family.

Brown, who joined the U.S. Army in 1998, was invited to attend the Middletown Area Middle School’s annual Veterans Appreciation Ceremony by cousin James Russell and Russell’s children. He didn’t hesitate to come for a visit, not even if it meant a 4 1/2-hour drive from Fort Lee in Petersburg, Virginia, to Middletown.

Now a major, Brown said he joined the Army because he was looking for direction in life, he wanted education, and he wanted to travel the world. He accomplished all those things. He’s traveled to Germany and served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This was Brown’s first visit to the Middletown program and Brown had nothing but support for it, calling the event “an awesome opportunity” for students to “understand the sacrifices bestowed before them.”

The event allows students to invite veterans they know, whether they be a family member, friend or neighbor, to the middle school, enjoy breakfast with them, and allow their special guest the opportunity to be thanked for his or her service to the country, no matter which branch they served in or in which era they served.

While there was no dress code for the event, Brown was one of a few who was dressed in uniform. 

Paul Carnes wasn’t in uniform, but there was no mistaking in which military branch he had served. Decked out in a blue Reebok football-style shirt with the word Navy and a Navy symbol of a bald eagle carrying an anchor in its talons printed on the front, Carnes was attending his eighth ceremony.

With the appreciation ceremony the day before Veterans Day, Carnes said both the middle school’s event and Saturday’s holiday gave citizens the chance to “honor the people that served for us.”

“It’s neat to see how much the country honors veterans and sacrifice veterans made,” Carnes said.

Family was a key part of joining for Brown and Carnes. Brown had an uncle and a brother who served in the Marines, while serving in the Navy seems to be in the Carnes family’s blood as Paul’s father, Ford Carnes Jr., served during the Vietnam War. Both of Carnes’s grandfathers served in World War II.

Paul Carnes initially went to pharmacy school, but he knew he would have a chance to be in charge early on if he enlisted in the military, so he joined in 1992 and stayed until 1998, becoming a pharmacy officer on the USNS Comfort, a hospital ship, capable of housing 1,000 beds. His roles included distributing medicine and other pharmaceutical duties. Currently he’s at the VA Medical Center in Lebanon serving as chief of pharmacy services.

“I’m still serving veterans,” Carnes said.

Middle school students and faculty served a hearty dose of thank-yous and recognition to the dozens of veterans who were in attendance Friday.

All five branches of the military were individually recognized and honored as the branch’s song was played and the flag was presented.

The family theme continued with guest speaker Ron Hostetler, where he explained how a family helps an individual discover their place in the world by developing their talents as they write their story. He compared this country to a family. 

“In the same way, this is what our country does for us. And it’s the message of our flag. It is the message and I hope we don’t miss the message of this flag because it is easy to miss the message of the flag. It’s easy to get distracted by a lot of other things, less significant things than the big picture and the big, big message of the flag,” Hostetler said.

“It’s the same with our family we call soldiers. Our soldiers are here to remind us of who we are and whose we are. They help us keep our eyes on the bigger picture. The vision our country has for us, it’s the same thing with our flag. They are our reminders. They are the message that we cannot miss. Our soldiers remind us of what got us here,” Hostetler said.

“The flag, our soldiers don’t want us to miss this message. So our country, in the same way as our family, gives us a sense of identity, significance, meaning, and purpose. Our country gives us a sense of who we are, where we are and why we are where we are. It gives us a good name. It gives us the name Americans. Our flag, our soldiers remind us who we are, where we are, and why we are where we are. The best way to honor what our soldiers have done for us, to honor their commitment, is to keep ours to them. To them, our country, and our flag,” Hostetler said.

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