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JCPS holds virtual Veterans Day celebration

Johnston County Public Schools held a special Veterans Day celebration to honor and recognize all Johnston County veterans for their service on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

Due to COVID-19 and the current restrictions on mass gatherings, the ceremony portion of the event was virtual. The online program began at 11 a.m., and was livestreamed and can be viewed on the district’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

“We did not want this pandemic to prevent us from honoring our veterans,” said Johnston County Public Schools Executive Director of Communication Nathanael Shelton. “We want them to know that we are grateful for the sacrifices they have made for us.”

The virtual ceremony featured guest speaker U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Wes J. Bryant, who was part of an elite special operations task force chosen to secure Baghdad and northern Iraq against the newly emerged threat of ISIS. The event will also feature stories and testimonies from several Johnston County veterans about their service throughout the years, including a veteran of WWII.

The 2020 event was the 16th anniversary of the ceremony, and the livestreamed portion included some footage of cadets from previous years.

The virtual event was student-led and featured cadets from each of the district’s JROTC programs. There was also new high school student band and chorus performances.

“As much as this program has been about our veterans over the years, it has also been about our students,” said Shelton. “It’s important for us to have our students lead this event because it lets our veterans know that their sacrifices will not be forgotten by future generations.”

Following the online celebration, all Johnston County veterans were invited to Smithfield-Selma High School for a curbside meal. The campus was decorated with 50 American Flags, which were donated by the Smithfield Rotary Club. There was also be balloons, music, and cadets onsite to welcome veterans.

In addition to the curbside meal, all veterans that came through the drive-thru meal service line received a 2020 commemorative event pin.