Students across southern Oklahoma welcomed veterans to their campuses and thanked them for their service during events Monday.

In Dickson, the entire district crowded into the gymnasium for the Annual Veterans Day Program, which honored nine area veterans.

Larry Porter, who works at the school and served as a PFC in the Marine Corps, organizes the annual event.

"This means everything to me," Porter said. "It means freedom. Younger kids understand what they see. We gave every kid a flag.

When they see the colors, they perk up. This lets the kids see veterans, know where they've been and where they come from."
Seeing Porter, known around campus as Pooch, speak about being a veteran struck a chord with the students.

"It's how much he loves this school and loves our country," said Senior Brittney O'Brien.

When Porter choked up as spoke, it became a moment the students won't forget.

"When you actually hear the emotion, that's when it hits you," said Senior Jack Wilson. "Pooch has been with us almost 20 years. He was my bus driver. That's more relatable than someone on TV."

The Dickson Comet Band playing the songs of the Army, Marines, Air Force and Navy, while the Showcase sang "America the Beautiful."
"I love playing the military music for the veterans," said Senior Aaron Patton.

The veterans stood at attention as the band played.

"There are returning veterans that come every year," said Sophomore Chelsea Tucker. "They make time for this, and they like coming here. They want to here the military songs, and we like playing them."

Continuing the district's school year theme of Unstoppable Comets, Superintendent Sherry Howe led a chant of "Comets are unstoppable, veterans are unstoppable, America is unstoppable."

Three current students who have already enlisted were also recognized.

Maj. Larry King Martin gave the keynote speech. He is a Marietta High School alumnus who served in Vietnam.

"It's not just thank you for not only keeping us free, but helping others maintain their freedom," Martin said.

Kingston Public Schools had 12 area veterans speak at an assembly Monday.

"They got to go up and tell their stories. It was heartfelt, and we got to see what they thought," said Kingston Junior Victoria Hodges.

Kingston High School and Middle School choirs performed patriotic tunes. A joint performance of "God Bless America" included sign language.

"We took the original classic and put our own spin on it," said Kingston Junior Jacy Germany.

Vocal Music Teacher Gay Lynn Allen organized the event. Her father was a veteran of two wars.

"I feel as if I honor my father each year," she said. "This is our way of showing respect for the dads, moms, aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers who have served."

Jack Hendrix, a 1942 Kingston graduate, served in the Marine Corps during World War II.

"It's great, very nice. When I went here, we were over by the water tower," Hendrix said with nostalgia.

For the students, it was a time to see first-hand the heroes who have served to make the United States great.

"It's a day to really open our eyes," Germany said. "Day to day, we forget that we are free and that there are people fighting for that right now."