OTTUMWA — At Evans Middle School Monday, the theme of the day was recognizing today’s soldiers and honoring those who have served their country over the years.
Around 30 veterans from the community were on hand for the school’s Veterans Day program. The students were also involved in many parts of the assembly. Before reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the Star Spangled Banner to music provided by the Evans seventh- and eighth-grade band, the Ottumwa High School JROTC presented the colors. Members of the seventh- and eighth-grade chorus performed “Power of One” for the veterans.
Capt. Randall Stanford, of Fairfield, spoke to the students about how being a soldier is very similar to being a middle school student. Both have a set of standards for conduct that they hold themselves to.
“Values are something to live by, something you choose and try to insert into your own life,” Stanford said. “These are the things that hold us together, this common core of values.”
This connection with young people is the main reason he enjoys speaking to groups of students.
“I consider it part of my job,” he explained. “I wasn’t the greatest student ... I got in trouble. The values I have were instilled in me by my parents, but they were reinforced in the military. This is my way of giving back.”
The Ottumwa School District was also able to close a chapter of one veteran’s history during the assembly. Floyd J. Dickerson was a member of the OHS class of 1944, and he was drafted during his junior year.
While he could have asked for a postponement until he graduated, he went to Basic Training in February 1943.
So while Dickerson was fighting in Europe, his friends were enjoying their senior year of high school.
“I wasn’t thinking about things like that,” Dickerson said. “The war was going full blast, and the only thing we knew was it was either daylight or dark. We didn’t even know what day it was. In combat, that’s all we were thinking about.”
When Dickerson returned to Ottumwa, he was told he was too old to complete his schooling, so he never received a diploma. On Monday, he was presented with an honorary diploma. In part, it reads that it is “presented to a true American hero who answered our nation’s call to war. His selfless service and dedication to his community, state and nation is a true testament to what has made the United States the greatest nation in the world.”
“I know you do a unit in sixth grade about heroism,” Superintendent Davis Eidahl told the students. “Today, you’re looking at heroes.”