Braden River Middle honors sacrifice and service before Veterans Day

Veterans Day is a time to reflect on past sacrifices, everyday bravery and a future of possibilities.

More than 1,000 staff and students at Braden River Middle School have the day off on Monday, so they gathered to celebrate the holiday on Friday morning. Before his call to action, Command Sgt. Maj. Alexander Figueroa offered a history lesson.

An armistice agreement between Germany and the Allies effectively ended World War I on Nov. 11, 1918 — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Thus, Armistice Day was created to celebrate veterans of the “war to end all wars.”

In 1954, after World War II and the Korean War, it was renamed to Veterans Day, honoring all who served America, said Figueroa, a U.S. Army veteran and a JROTC instructor at Braden River High School.

“They left everything behind — their families, homes and their livelihood — for something much greater than themselves,” Figueroa said. “These were Americans who came from all walks of life, who fought to protect our country and the ideals for which it stood.”

Figueroa’s family is steeped in military service. His wife retired from the U.S. Army, his two daughters serve in the Air Force, and his father served during World War II and the Korean War before he passed away last year.

During his speech on Friday morning, Figueroa stressed the value of service. Generations of brave men and women fought to preserve the ideals of liberty, equality and justice.

The students of Braden River Middle, he said, could honor those ideals and sacrifices by serving the community.

“Panthers, my charge to you is this: be kind to one another, assist and volunteer to serve right here on campus or around the community,” he said. “Provide a helping hand to your classmates and teachers. Pick up after yourselves and clean up. Help and assist those who are having a bad day.”

Friday’s celebration included a flag-raising ceremony, poetry readings, musical performances and the annual presentation of Braden River Middle’s “Wall of Honor,” a tile mosaic honoring service members.

But during Figueroa’s speech, the focus was just as much about the future as it was the past. Thanks to the country’s military veterans, students have the freedom to pursue their dreams and the ability to effect positive change.

“Be proud of who you are,” he said. “We veterans are so proud of you. We believe in you, and know that you matter to us.”

Giuseppe Sabella, education reporter for the Bradenton Herald, holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He spent time at the Independent Florida Alligator, the Gainesville Sun and the Florida Times-Union. His coverage of education in Manatee County earned him a first place prize in the Florida Society of News Editors’ 2019 Journalism Contest. Giuseppe also spent one year in Charleston, W.Va., earning a first-place award for investigative reporting.