SILETZ — Since 1985, Siletz Valley students have hosted area veterans for a school assembly where they honor them for their service.
Though the ceremony was canceled last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, organizers felt it was important the event be held this year. “There was no question we were going to have it this year,” Siletz Valley Superintendent and Principal Sam Tupou said. “It is important to bring the community back together with our veterans, to begin the healing process, and celebrate, pay respect, and give tribute to those here with us and those who have passed.”
About 20 area veterans, some graduates of Siletz Valley High School, attended the assembly held on Wednesday, Nov. 10. Organizer Tony Molina, a Vietnam War veteran, is credited with writing the poem at the Vietnam Memorial at Don Davis Park in Newport. He said the ceremony has changed over the years.
“We used to have World War II guys here,” Molina said. “It was also so special for them and they would often tear up.” Molina said there are two surviving WWII veterans from the Siletz area, but both have moved. “But the ceremony is still about giving praise and showing respect for veterans,” he added.
Capt. Cory Glenn, a Navy veteran and director of pilot recruiting and development at Boeing, gave an address where he told students they can be anything they want to be, and enlisting in the military is a great way to achieve many goals. “When you rely on your resilience and self-discipline to continue to push through, (it can) bring you to where you want to go,” Glenn said. “Nothing about military service I regret. The career building, the life-long relationships and the experiences I had in the military were pivotal roles in what made me what I am today.”
Siletz students, from kindergarten to seniors, created gifts for the attending veterans. In past years, the students passed out their gifts of appreciation directly to veterans, but due to social distancing guidelines this year, the gifts were given to veterans in tote bags made by students. “The kids put a lot of work into this important day,” Tupou said.