OCHS event honors Hometown heroes

Veterans, firefighters and police will be honored guests

History comes to life at Oregon City High School on Nov. 7 and 8, when students and staff at the school honor local military veterans, including those who are now law enforcement officers and firefighters.

The event on Nov. 7 features a concert and pie and ice cream social. The next day, more than 2,000 students and 100 veterans will take part in the school's sixth annual veterans assembly.

'It is a tradition we all look forward to sharing together,' said Kathy Johnson, OCHS associate principal, and one of two organizers of the assembly.

Her co-organizer, Ed Burton, a Vietnam veteran and a former OCHS teacher and coach, was 'very instrumental in planning this assembly,' she said. Burton also will act as the program's emcee.

Each year the assembly has a different theme, and this year's is 'Hometown Heroes.' The focus is on local vets, including many who have graduated from OCHS.

'It is a big assembly, with the presentation of the colors at the beginning, and at the end we all sing 'America the Beautiful,' with the full band and the full choir,' Johnson said.

The event begins with a parade of veterans, accompanied by the anthem while the students cheer and wave flags. The band will also play special songs for the police and firefighters, Johnson said. There are 12 Oregon City police officers who are veterans and a number of Clackamas County firefighters.

The event includes the pledge of allegiance, choir songs, performance by the school's dance team and speeches, including one from the student body president. The assembly concludes with students presenting gifts to all the veterans, thanking them for their service.

Two moments of the assembly will be especially poignant, Johnson said.

'There will be a table set up that represents the fallen soldier,' she said. 'It will be in the spotlight and is a very special opportunity to teach the students about prisoners of war and the high cost of freedom. Then we will present a wreath to a Vietnam veteran, that honors all the fallen OCHS alumni.'

When the assembly is over, the wreath will be put outside in the memory garden, under a plaque with all the names of the local Vietnam veterans who died in combat.

This year something special is happening after the assembly, Johnson said. The high school's marching band and the JROTC will leave that day for New York City, where members will take part in the 9/11 World Trade Center 10th anniversary tribute on Nov. 10, at Ground Zero. The next day, the band and color guard will march in the New York City Veterans Day Parade.

Learning experience

Students who attend the assembly will 'learn the importance of respecting history and recognizing the multigenerational sacrifice these veterans have made. We also don't want these people to be forgotten. We want them to see how much these young people know - it is a gift we can give them,' Johnson said.

Johnson noted that the keynote speaker for the assembly would be Lt. Col. David Quesnel, a native Oregonian.

'He reached the rank of top gun in the Air Force, met two presidents and was twice appointed to two positions at the Pentagon,' she added.

She also said that the Clackamas Fire Pipe and Drum Corps would lead in the police and fire veteran guests.

Brady Stroh, the school's student body president, is looking forward to speaking at the assembly. He's still planning his speech, but Stroh knows that students should attend the assembly, because there is 'no other way to understand and comprehend how much these veterans have sacrificed for our country. It is important to understand that these people risked their lives for us.'

Burton, the emcee, taught health, physical education and English at OCHS from 1977 to 1998. He was the head football coach from 1986 to 1997. He wanted to be involved in the assembly, because he had been associated in the past with the veterans assembly at Milwaukie High School, and thought OCHS should start a similar tradition.

'It is the right thing to do,' Burton said. 'My interest is to focus on Oregon City people, to try to recognize people from our own community.'

The students, he added, 'never cease to amaze me, the amount of respect they show to vets. More than anything, I want them to learn that in our history, men and women have exceeded our expectations in protecting our country. Without these freedoms, society today would be much different. I want the students to see the rest of the world in a new light, and someday they may get involved in protecting our country and become outstanding citizens.'

Calling all veterans

Organizers of Oregon City High School's sixth annual veterans assembly are asking all veterans to call 503-785-8545 in order to reserve a place at two events, to be held on Nov. 7 and 8 at the high school.

The first event, 'American as Apple Pie,' is a tribute concert honoring all local veterans, firefighters and police. It features American music performed by all the high school's music groups, including the jazz and symphonic bands and the wind ensemble and the honors wind symphony. It takes place from 7 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 7, and will be followed by an old-fashioned pie and ice cream social, from 8 to 9 p.m., at the high school.

The 'Hometown Heroes' assembly, honoring all local veterans and police and firefighters, takes place on Nov. 8 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. in the auditorium. A veterans and guest hospitality room will be open from 7:45 to 8:30 a.m.

Oregon City High School is at 19761 S. Beavercreek Road.