BY GABE LICHT
For the past three years, I have been covering the Veterans Day program at Delano High School, organized by Delano American Legion Post 377.
I have always been impressed with how the students treat this program.
This year was no exception.
During the advance of the colors, the students stood with their hands on their hearts, and remained standing for the POW/MIA recognition and the national anthem.
As students were recognized for their essays and involvement in Girls State and the Post 377 baseball team, the students in the crowd were respectful spectators.
Speaking of those essays, they were very well written and presented, and I don’t envy the judges who were tasked with the responsibility of selecting a winner.
Each essay winner was applauded when she finished reading.
As Navy veteran Dr. Tim Roth stepped to the podium, the crowd listened intently. I was focused on taking notes and photos, but I didn’t hear any whispers or giggles, and another person I spoke to said he saw very few students on their phones.
He received a hearty round of applause.
Lt. Col. Patricia Osmon was given the same respect as she was promoted to colonel, and that was a very interesting ceremony to witness.
Once again, students applauded after Osmon was promoted and also after she received a meritorious service medal.
Just as they applauded when it was appropriate, they were silent when it was appropriate, including the retiring of the flags and the playing of taps.
Considering how these young people conducted themselves, I left the school feeling pretty positive about millenials, who often get a bad rap for being disrespectful.
Later that afternoon, I was perusing Facebook for story ideas when I read a post that said the high school asked the speaker from the Legion not to mention God.
That post led to conjecture, conclusions, and debate online.
It also led me to do some digging.
I contacted DHS Principal Steve Heil, who said the concern centered around the invocation and closing prayers.
“With the laws and rules for public prayer, we can’t have an assembly where there’s no choice,” Heil said.
When I asked if any presenter was barred from referencing God, he said no.
“If our speaker said, ‘I was in a situation and prayed to God,’ that’s what he did,” Heil said. “He’s not telling everyone else to do that.”
He also expressed a desire to ensure that the high school continues hosting the program.
“It’s very important personally to me and many people in the community,” Heil said.
The program is also important to American Legion Post Commander Troy Kriesch.
“This is a program put on by the school,” Kriesch said. “The American Legion loves their relationship with the school. It is a strong relationship and it is outstanding. We will continue to nurture that relationship. This program is put on for veterans, but also a teaching method for kids.”
Kriesch also reported that the Legion wasn’t banned from praying, but that any prayer would need to be approved by school officials first, and that the Legion opted not to pray.
“We had our own prayer the next day, which was actually Veterans Day,” Kriesch said.
After discussing the matter with Heil and Kriesch, I concluded that they were on the same page, but not everyone in the community was on the same page with them, starting with the misunderstanding over what would be allowed or not.
Instead of working to understand exactly what had happened, people jumped to conclusions and attacked one another from behind the screens of their electronic devices.
I shouldn’t be surprised by this, as it has become standard procedure for many people to be offended and for others to be offended that someone is offended.
Instead of a knee-jerk reaction to one person’s interpretation of things that have happened, I would encourage everyone to take a deep breath and seek facts rather than responding to rumors. Then, respond respectfully, even when not agreeing with others.
In other words, it would do us all good to take a page out of Delano students’ book to applaud at times and be respectful and/or quiet at other times.