Choir director Lisa Gillespie told the sea of students seated in the school’s courtyard to look to their left and wave to the rows of men and women seated there “and realize those are the people we are honoring today.”
“We’re not honoring the choir, even though we’re looking at them,” she said. “We’re honoring our service men and women.”
The Kitty Stone Singers, joined by members of the Jacksonville State University brass and percussion ensemble, sang the Armed Forces Salute, recognizing veterans of each branch of the military as representatives presented the flags of each.
A weathered flag took center stage as Jacksonville High School’s Gene Rhodes told its story. The flag was first flown by the Boyles family on their front porch the day Ben Tomlinson shipped out to serve his country in Afghanistan and never taken down until Robin Boyles waved it in the city square as huge crowds welcomed Tomlinson home. Boyles presented the flag to Tomlinson at the ceremony.
“Their family is very special to us,” she said. “We flew it to honor him and as our patriotic duty.”
The Kitty Stone Singers closed the ceremony with a rendition of “Why We Sing,” a song second-grader Kelcie Comisac described as one “of peace, love and strength.”
Comisac reminded the crowd why they were all there: “Coming together as a community can soothe our souls, mend our hearts and bring us home.”
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.