You could have heard a pin drop


Last updated 11/14/2023 at 12:04pm

Photo by Bill Bartlett

Sisters High School hosted veterans for coffee and a moving assembly. Sisters Middle School did the same later in the day, as Sisters observed Veterans Day on November 9.

Timing is always tricky with a weekly publication. Take Halloween this year, on a Tuesday, literally the day when The Nugget is rolling off the press on its way to Sisters. So, no way to capture freshly the excitement of the annual children's parade put on by Sisters Park & Recreation District and Rotary Club of Sisters.

Reporting on it would be eight days later, by then old news. Veteran's Day is always November 11, but local observances fell during the week, so they would be long over by the time The Nugget hit the street November 15. What to do?

Editor Jim Cornelius wanted at least a photo or two honoring veterans. What better place for a photo opp than one of the two school assemblies last Thursday? So off I went to Sisters High School figuring I'd be there five minutes, grab a photo, and move on to the next thing.

Sure enough I was able to get some touching photos of students interacting with veterans in the library a half hour before a school-wide assembly, where they would be formally honored.

Okay, I said to myself, I'll drop in for five minutes in case there's a better photo to be had. I couldn't leave. The moments were too important and too poignant. Especially with what's happening in the world militarily in Ukraine, Israel, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. These are uncertain times and worrisome, no matter that events are thousands of miles away.

It wasn't the 20-plus veterans who made that assembly special. It was the students. There are only seven or eight such assemblies a year. From start to finish it was a student production - from parading the colors, to the choir, to the orchestra, the introductions, the audio/video. And it was expertly accomplished.

Quite moving was the solo student bugling "Taps." Of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognized or more apt to evoke emotion than Taps. The melody is both eloquent and haunting, and the history of its origin is interesting and somewhat clouded in controversy and myth.

I'm thinking this is going to take 15, maybe 20 minutes, and off they'd go back to class. I'm also thinking these kids are going to start fidgeting. Sneaking in a text or two. Nodding off. Nope. As 20 minutes became 25 and then 30, I'm sitting there stunned.

This can't be right. In the TikTok age, these kids aren't going to sit still for a bunch of old-timers, some in their 80s, sitting in the front row with some service caps and jackets trying to keep a tradition of service alive.

Seriously, imagine 432 teens sitting respectfully through an identical event in any major city. I'm betting Sisters students have a higher regard for their elders in general, and particularly those who served, than most any school in the U.S.

Color me naïve or just be grateful that patriotism still thrives in our little patch. For further proof, go to an Outlaws football game next season. The chill running down your spine won't be just from the cool nights. Whatever is in the Sisters water it's heavy with red, white, and blue.

Part of the ceremony was the listing by name, photo, and graduation year of the scores of Sisters graduates who joined the military, with many still serving in four different branches. In some cases the surnames repeated, a clear indication that some families in Sisters produce multiple enlistees.

Thanksgiving is around the corner and a dozen or so families in Sisters Country will celebrate without their child, who may be a moment's call away from combat as the U.S. military moves thousands of troops around the globe, with some 40 recent attacks on U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq alone.

By far the most sacred of the assembly's proceedings was the setting by the students of the Missing Man Table. Also known as a fallen comrade table, it is a ceremony and memorial that is set up in honor of fallen, missing, or imprisoned military service members.

Just as you could have heard a pin drop during the entire assembly at the high school, the same was true later in the day when Sisters Middle School paid their tributes to the veterans. While I wasn't there, a number of veterans told me later that the students were every bit as respectful, genuinely curiou.s and unfeignedly grateful for the service to the nation of those standing before them.

Invite yourself next year. This is Sisters at its very best.


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