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Firebirds Honor Fallen Father, All Veterans During Assembly

FMS students perform a flag folding ceremony Nov. 10. Students, staff, and parents at Falcon Middle School welcomed current and former military service members Nov. 10 to honor their service to our country.

“Some of you may know this, especially if you’re an eighth-grader, that we originally observed Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” said Karen Hobson, a nearly 17-year U.S. Army veteran and FMS administrative assistant, who planned the Veterans Day assembly.

“President Eisenhower signed a bill in 1954 proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day,” said Hobson. “President Eisenhower called on all Americans to rededicate themselves to the cause for peace and to honor those that have served America.”

Normal People Doing Extraordinary Things
Col. Pedro Almeida (Ret.), U.S. Army, recently began serving District 49 as chief operations officer. Almeida provided the keynote address for the assembly.
During his time in the Army, Col. Almeida led units at every level from platoon to brigade; coordinated the operations, maintenance, and logistical support of a helicopter battalion; served as aide to the Army Chief of Staff; and represented the Army as the Senior Fellow to Georgetown University.

Col. Almeida retired from the Army in 2015 and last served as chief operating officer/chief of staff for US Army Africa in Vicenza, Italy. He organized and supervised a 600 person staff focused on security cooperation planning and execution with African partners.

“I am honored to be here for this ceremony with all of you,” said Almeida. “The key thing I want you to take away is that veterans are just like you and I. They are normal every day people.”

“But they aren’t normal every day people that do normal every day things. They are normal folks that have done some extraordinary things.”

A FMS student puts his arm around his father Nov. 10 during the Veterans Day assembly.  Col. Pedro Almeida (Ret.), U.S. Army, addresses students, staff and community members Nov. 10.

“Veterans are special,” said Almeida. “They have experienced things and done things for our country that a lot of folks can’t really imagine or can’t put their minds around.”

As an example, Almeida shared the story of Sgt. Julia Bringloe. While serving as a U.S. Army combat medic on a four-person Blackhawk helicopter team in Afghanistan, Bringloe sustained a broken leg at the beginning of a three-day evacuation mission.

“Look at her, she’s normal, just like all of us,” said Almeida, while showing a photo of Bringloe during the deployment.

Bringloe was lowered more than 150 feet into a forest of pine trees more than 100 feet tall. She retrieved a severely dehydrated soldier, and hooked the two of them up for extraction.

While being hoisted, a strong gust of wind swung the two directly toward a large tree trunk. Bringloe swung her body around to protect her patient, and stuck out her leg to fend off the tree.

Almeida said that event though her leg was broken, she refused to get out of the copter. “She told her crew, ‘we have too much to do and too many soldiers to help.’”

Over the next three days, Bringloe helped medevac 14 soldiers to safety through gunfire filled extrication sites.

“She’s normal, she’s just like us. But the stuff she did over those three days, dropping from a helicopter, in the wind, so that she could help save other soldiers, is extraordinary.”

Almeida concluded by noting that the humility of most veterans means they don’t seek out recognition for their service.

“When you learn someone is a veteran, remember, they are normal just like us,” said Almeida. “But thank them for their extraordinary service.”

A FMS student listens to an address Nov. 10 during a Veterans Day assembly.  Karen Hobson, FMS administrative assistant and veteran, addresses the crowd Nov. 10.

Honoring a Firebird’s Fallen Father
“This year one of our Firebirds reached out and shared with me that her father was killed in Afghanistan in 2011,” said Hobson, returning to the podium. “America pays its respect to those that have given the ultimate sacrifice.”

Hobson presented a folded American flag to a group of students in the middle of the school’s gymnasium. The students performed a traditional flag folding ceremony.

“The American flag drapes the casket with the remains of a fallen hero, with the field of blue placed over the left shoulder,” said Hobson.

“The flag is folded and given to the next of kin.”

“Would you please rise to honor those who never made it home with a moment of silence and the playing of taps,” said Hobson.

“Thank you Maddie Tompkins for bringing this to our attention,” Hobson said, looking up into the packed gym bleachers. Madison, 14, is an eighth-grader at the Falcon Zone school. Her father, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Travis Tompkins, was killed while serving his country.

Falcon Middle School and District 49 thank Staff Sgt. Tompkins for protecting our nation and the banner of freedom. We thank all of those who have served and are currently serving for their service.

Matt Meister