November 11 through the eyes of a Vet

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By Laurel Wren Emerson

Redwater High School Journalism

    “Veterans Day takes you back to war, to the good and the tough times.”
Michal McInturff, a Vietnam Army veteran and Redwater ISD third grade teacher, struggled to keep tears out of his eyes during RISD’s Veterans Day program on Nov. 11. The school’s Key Club, sponsored by Lee Stilson, put the assembly together. Stilson said they worked hard to ensure that veterans felt honored and that the students realized the sacrifices made in the name of freedom.
“It’s like everybody had practiced for weeks and weeks,” McInturff said. “The fact that I can see they care about it, and me, is emotional.”
He described how, when he returned from war to his new wife and child, people treated veterans differently. There was an obvious lack of support from the public then, but he said things have changed immensely.
“To see the way it is now makes me feel really good,” McInturff said. “It’s important that people understand what soldiers have done and have given up.”
McInturff, affectionately known around the school as “Mr. Mack,” has been teaching at Redwater for several years. Numerous students he once taught participated in the program.
“It’s been really special to see that they’re still involved and think about it,” McInturff said. “I get really close to the students. I love to see the other grades.”
The program began with the high school choir’s performance of songs such as “America the Beautiful” and the national anthem. The choir, led by Deborah Reed, is new to Redwater and has gained quite a good reputation.
“That’s pretty amazing,” McInturff said. “She’s done a great job directing them; they were awesome.”
A group of middle school students also dabbled in music as they sang the song, “Thank You, Soldier.” Speeches from a few middle school students preceded the song, and a video accompanied it.
“Everyone spoke up; I felt like they meant what they said,” McInturff said. “The visual [aspect] was beautiful.”
A junior high tribute followed the song. The high school band then played “On Hymnsong of Phillip Bliss” and the “Armed Forces on Parade,” a medley of the songs for all of the branches of the military. Each year, veterans stand when their branch’s song is played.
“I’m proud; we’re taught from the beginning to be proud of the branch we serve in,” McInturff said. “[This year’s program] had by far the most veterans I’ve ever seen.”
After the band’s performance, a group of third graders took the stage to sing “Hero in This Place.”
“I absolutely loved it and always do, especially seeing the kids I teach,” McInturff said. “It was so special.”
The Lee Greenwood song and video, “God Bless the USA,” plays every year near the end of the assembly. On their own accord, everyone in attendance sang along.
“That’s a pretty emotional thing,” McInturff said. “It was incredible that people just joined in.”
Next, superintendent Kathy Allen spoke shortly about how much Veterans Day, and Redwater’s specific program, meant to her. After the retirement of the flags, the veterans were invited to stay for a special reception to enjoy refreshments and swap stories.
“The veterans were really appreciative and astounded by the fact that the whole district came out and put on [the program],” McInturff said. “Part of it is the reputation of Redwater’s celebration. Many of us agreed that it was hard to keep tears out of our eyes.”


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