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Holladay Journal

The Reid School reaches out to remember veterans’ service

Dec 10, 2018 02:51PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Students connected with veterans and asked questions about their service. (Heather Lawrence/City Journals)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

The Reid School’s National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) held their annual Veterans day program on Nov. 13. The program included an impromptu recitation of he Gettysburg Address, presentation of colors and well-rehearsed speaking parts by the students, all with a music and graphics background. 

The highlight of the event was the veterans who attended. Five veterans stayed to talk with the secondary students about their service and experiences.

Kathleen Barlow and Shauna Tateoka of the Reid School organized the event. “This is something the students of our NJHS do each year. It fulfills the citizenship requirement. Not many private junior highs get a branch of the NJHS at their school, so it’s really something special,” Tateoka said. 

The students delivered their parts from alternating sides of the auditorium with impressive diction and confidence. After the short program, they politely showed their visitors to Tateoka’s classroom and attentively listened while each veteran spoke. 

Dax Shane is a veteran who now serves on the Salt Lake City police force. He told the students that during his army service in the 90s, he was in the 82nd Airborne Division and took part in a peacekeeping mission in Panama helping Cubans who fled find refuge. 

Dr. LeRoy Wirthlin was a naval officer in the U.S. Navy. He served at a base in Pensacola, Florida and did some medical research. While serving, he and his wife lived on base and had two children. 

Wirthlin recalled how he had to demonstrate his adherence to duty even when he wanted to be somewhere else. “One day I was the medical officer of the day. When you’re out on watch you can’t leave. I got a call from my wife. She was in labor, and I had to ask another doctor to go pick up my wife and deliver the baby,” Wirthlin said. 

Mervin Reid joined the service just two weeks to the day after he graduated from high school. It was the tail end of World War II and Germany had already surrendered. He was stationed in Italy and remembers riding in the night through Rome and up to Livorno near Pisa.  

Lynn Newman served in the Navy during World War II. Newman, 99, sported a Navy cap and sat next to Patricia, his wife of 74 years. 

Newman has lived his entire life in Holladay and enlisted after completing a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I’m honored to be here with you. I thank you for the program you gave today and look forward to what you’ll do to make this nation even greater,” Newman said to students. 

The last veteran to speak to the Reid School students and teachers was career Marine Michael Cousert. Dressed in fatigues, Cousert said his first assignment was to Vietnam in 1965. He served in every conflict until 2003, often working as a sniper to protect his Marine brothers. 

“I was a POW for five years in Vietnam, and I knew John McCain,” Cousert said. He served in conflicts in Somalia, Nicaragua and Beirut among others, and was also at the Pentagon on 9/11. 

Students heard firsthand how a life of military service can take its toll. “In 2003 the agent orange that the government used in Vietnam finally got to me, and I ended up with cancer. I’m fighting still. I don’t give up. Marines don’t quit,” Cousert said. 

After the formal panel broke, students stayed to offer the guests refreshments, ask the veterans questions and made connections. 

Cousert summed up the event by thanking the students for their program and making one last sober reminder. “You have your freedoms today because of everything that we (veterans) have done, and I’m honored to be here with these servicemen today.”