, Muskogee, OK

November 11, 2013

Fort Gibson salutes veterans

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— As Boy Scouts retired the colors at Fort Gibson’s veterans ceremony, John Steven Cooper told his grandson “stand up still.”

The ceremony, held Friday, was the first Fort Gibson ceremony the Vietnam War veteran was able to attend. Cooper served as a staff sergeant the U.S. Marine Corps during the war. He said he missed previous ceremonies because he had to work.

He said he was happy to share this time with his grandson, Early Learning Center second-grader Steven Cooper.

“I hope the ceremony instills American pride in him,” the elder Cooper said after the ceremony. “I hope it instills pride in his country and in himself.”

Steven, 7, said it felt good to be able to be with his grandfather.

Students from all Fort Gibson schools — along with parents, grandparents and other visitors — packed the basketball gym for the annual assembly.

It was held Friday because school was out Monday, the traditional Veterans Day.

High School senior Erin Wilcox read a patriotic poem, “The Noble and the Brave” by poet Joanna Fuchs. The poem honored veterans who fought in wars, as well as those who offered support.

“We salute every one of them. The noble and the brave. The ones still with us here today, and those who rest in the grave,” the poem said.

The brief ceremony featured a variety of patriotic music, including “Battle Hymn of the Republic” by the high school choir and “God Bless the USA” by the high school band. A select choir from the Intermediate Elementary School waved small American flags as they sang a medley.

Veterans stood to rousing applause as the high school band played songs from each branch of the military.

“I appreciate it,” said Fort Gibson resident Earl Spencer, who spent five years in the Army. “This is something that needs to be encouraged.”

Muskogee resident Harold Willard, who was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, said he comes every year to the ceremony. Willard said he has three grandchildren in Fort Gibson — first-grader Kamdyn, fifth-grader Baylor and eighth-grader Kerrigan.

Willard said standing while so many students and townspeople applaud is “quite an honor.”

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@