WINTERS – Veterans were honored during the 2016 Veterans Day Celebration held at the Special Event Center on Friday, Nov. 11 in Winters.

WINTERS – Veterans were honored during the 2016 Veterans Day Celebration held at the Special Event Center on Friday, Nov. 11 in Winters. The event, organized annually by Winters music teacher Fran Kidwell, began with a breakfast for the veterans and families.

Winters ISD Superintendent Bruce Davis opened the ceremony and about 40 honorable veterans filed in to the gym. The colors were presented by the Dyess Air Force Color Guard and the pledge was led by Macey Gerhart, president of the Winters High School Student Council and Boy Scouts Pack 249.

Second grader Cora Leigh Hatter, standing next to her great grandparents Dorothy and Amos L. Aldridge, performed the National Anthem. She held her great-grandfather’s hand as she sang. Aldridge, served in World War II in the U.S. Navy.

Charles Kidwell, retired principal and president of Winters ISD Board of Trustees, welcomed the crowd to the event.

“We appreciate you veterans today and what you’ve done for your country,” Charles Kidwell said.

He then presented the 2016 Winters Patriot Award to Franklin Charles Odell, Sr. who served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam. For his service he was awarded the National Defense Medal, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, Army Commendation Medal with first Oak Leaf Cluster from the 140th Military Police, the Legion of Merit, Drill Sergeant Badge, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Bronze Star. Deb Pritchard, a WHS English teacher, presented the county winners of the VFW Voice of Democracy Audio-Essay Contest . Seventy-eight high students submitted essays for the competition. First place was Brooklyn Anderson, second place was Aimee Green, third place was Tia Campos, fourth place was Brenna Edwards and fifth place was Joey Garcia. These students’ audio essays now advance to district competition in Abilene. The guest speaker for the event was First Lt. Jonathan J. Gann, 37, a Winters native who is currently serving in the U.S. Air Force. Charles Kidwell introduced him.

“It always makes me tremendously proud to have our students come back successful,” he said.

Gann, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 2001 and deployed in 2005 to Kirkuk, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. After returning from Iraq, Gann remained on active duty becoming a military training instructor. In 2008 he joined the Texas Air National Guard and after receiving a degree in nursing, and currently serves as an intelligence officer assigned to the Drug Enforcement Administration Texas Military Forces Counter Drug Program.

Gann, who is assigned to the 149th Medical Group, Detachment I Joint Base in San Antonio, stressed that community was the driving force that propelled him “to go out and do something bigger than myself.”

“I was part of Blizzard nation,” he said. “This allowed me to develop the thigs I needed to do to serve my country.”

Gann said he realized how important Veterans Day is when he was deployed to Iraq. While there, he and fellow service men and women were stationed at a small village, where every day, a woman would come out and offer him and other soldiers coffee and tea, which they were instructed to refuse. But finally, a few weeks in, they accepted her offer.

“She thanked us for being there,” Gann explained. “She said because we were there her children could play. She said ‘because you are here, we have a sense of peace.’”

Gann thanked the community for inviting him to speak and serve.

“Thank you for allowing me to continue to serve this great nation,” Gann said.

Gann and his wife Grace have two daughters, Isabella and Sophia and live in San Antonio.

Gann and Charles Kidwell then interviewed the veterans in attendance. The WHS Band, led by Karen Mooney, performed the Armed Forces hymns and the Winters Elementary Select Choir performed “America My Land, My Home.”

“Taps” was performed by Karen Mooney, and the veterans were dismissed.