Firth honors veterans at annual assembly
Close to 100 individuals representing each branch of the Armed Forces were honored at the Firth Veterans' Assembly Monday morning.
The community and student bodies from both Firth High School and Firth Middle School attended. The students dressed in their best clothes. They looked good and were respectful.
Military historian Rob Morris, a history teacher at Idaho Falls High School, said, "Each veteran is a piece of the puzzle.
"There are so many vets and so few people to record their histories," he said. "When that person leaves this planet, his/her stories need to be immortalized.
"Take time to hear their stories and write them down," said Morris. "Preserve it someplace."
Morris related veterans he has known and interviewed. He spoke of what he learned from these men.
"In the early 70s, I was a freshman in high school in Washington, D.C., when it was not cool to be patriotic," Morris said. "It was a counter-culture time when teachers came to work in casual clothing.
"My history teacher, Pete Benavage, came to work in a suit with his shoes spit shined," he said. "He treated every student with respect.
"One day, [Benavage] announced it was 30 years to the day he had been a gunnery sergeant on Iwo Jima," Morris said. "He showed us a graphic movie about Iwo Jima; a lot of men died on both sides.
"I became interested in history because of him," Morris said.
Benavage is still alive at age 93.
Gus Mencow flew 25 missions over Germany during the early part of WWII.
He did not hammer out the "H," for Hebrew, on his dogtag.
"That's who I am," Mencow said.
Mencow finished college at age 80; completed his master's at age 90 and died at age 91.
"He never stopped learning," said Morris.
Edgar Harrell was on the USS Indianapolis when it was torpedoed. For four days, Harrell lived in shark-infested waters, waiting rescue.
From Harrell, Morris learned, "Believe in God and pray to Him; He will help."
Ed Leehan was in the Air Corps and was a POW during the whole war. He was one on the Bataan Death March.
Herb Alf was a B-17 bomber pilot who was captured and was a POW throughout the war.
From Alf, Morris learned, "It's not a person's intelligence but his/her persistence that makes the difference."
Lee Kessler was a POW in Germany.
"Circumstances do not make the man or woman," Kessler was recorded as saying. "Circumstances only reveal that man or woman."
"Veterans are fire-tempered and sharp as steel," Morris said. "We are here to honor veterans."
Firth High School students highlighted 14 veterans. .
Three of Ned Mickelson's grandchildren thanked him for his service to the nation while serving in the 3rd Marine Division during WWII.
Robert Crowton and Dale Mathews were both Marines who served during that war.
Kay Morris served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII and earned the Navy Cross.
Elvin Lyon also served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII.
Theodore Tubbs, father of Firth Superintendent Sid Tubbs, was recognized for his service in U.S. Navy during the Korean War.
Lyndon Hall was a Marine during Vietnam.
Philip Meek and Robert Dawson each served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam.
Henry Crumb was recognized for serving in the Army during Korea and Vietnam.
Jim Gerard served in the U.S. Army during Korea.
Kenneth Tucker served in the Air Force in Vietnam.
James Peterson was a Marine during Korea; his brother, Robert, was also a Marine, serving in Vietnam. Robert was killed in action.
Mezzo soprano Nicole Owens sang "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Bring Him Home."
The Community Orchestra at Firth, under the direction of Angela Carlson, performed patriotic music. As the "Armed Forces Salute" was played, members of the audience who served in that branch of the service stood to be recognized and received warm applause.
Lance Mecham, manager of King's in Shelley, presented the student body at Firth High School with two flags—the Flag of Honor and the Flag of Heroes. The Flag of Honor features the names of the people who were killed in the attacks on 9-11. The Flag of Heroes names the police, firefighters and emergency service personnel who died trying to save people on 9-11.
Firth military history teacher Stewart Portela organized this annual Veterans' Assembly.