CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Humbling is how Gov. Jim Justice described being in the presence of dozens of veterans on Friday.
Justice and First Lady Cathy Justice hosted a youth salute to veterans ceremony “Once and Future Patriots” ahead of Veterans Day on Monday.
“It makes you beyond humbled to see these people that have given so much and to ask for almost nothing,” Justice said to the crowd at the state Culture Center Theater.
The ceremony featured the first high school student-teacher team from West Virginia to participate in the Albert H. Small Normandy Institute in D.C.” Emily Rinick a senior at Nitro HS and her history teacher Kizmet E. Chandler.
The institute commemorates the D-Day invasion during World War II, which Chandler will co-head in 2020 and 2021. The pair continued their research of Mitchell Bacon, a service member from West Virginia that was killed and buried in Normandy, on their trip in the summer. At the ceremony on Friday, Rinick told Bacon’s story and read his eulogy.
“Our veterans deserve so much recognition for what they do for the country, they are all heroes. It’s an incredible honor to be a part of this ceremony,” Rinick said.
Rinick hopes that her involvement in the program and honoring veterans will inspire students her age to get involved.
“I would hope that they would be able to see more of what the sacrifice is and more of the cost of freedom rather than reading about it in a textbook,” she said.
Other event participants included Nitro High’s Show Choir and Air Force Junior ROTC Honor Guard; Veterans Assistance Secretary Dennis Davis; Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy; general counsel to the governor and WV Army National Guard Lt. Col. Brian Abraham; and the WVNG’s 249th Army Band. West Virginia Arts, Culture and History Curator Randall Reid-Smith served as event emcee.
“We all know it’s easy to say that freedom isn’t free,” Justice said to the crowd. “It’s almost lip service in a lot of ways and we say it but do we really believe it. Do we really get it? Well, I get it.”