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Sharp salutes the troops
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 Sharp Learning Center students and faculty as well as local veterans and elected officials participated in the school's fifth annual Veterans Day appreciation program Wednesday morning.

The program began with American Legion Post 233 presenting the colors

In its first performance since it formed, the Sharp Tiger Choir sang the national anthem and "I Believe I Can Fly."

Wendi Brooks' fifth grade class from Ficquett Elementary School recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

Sharp Principal Gabriel Burnette, also a first lieutenant in the Army, then greeted those who attended.

"It is difficult to imagine what the United States would be like if we didn't have those in our midst who were willing to sacrifice to protect our nation," Burnette said.

He also provided a brief history of Veterans Day saying President Woodrow Wilson declared Nov. 11 Armistice Day at the end of World War I and President Dwight Eisenhower gave the holiday its current name in 1954.

"Veterans Day gives us a time to publicly claim our appreciation of their efforts," Burnette said.

He said a soldier's commitment requires a commitment in turn from those he or she leaves behind.

"We must find ways to actively, not passively repay this debt," Burnette said.

Visiting veterans in the hospital, supporting their families at home and writing letters to those serving overseas are ways Burnette encouraged the audience to champion the efforts of members of the military.

The keynote speaker of Wednesday's program was Army Lt. Col. Steven C. Smith

He said usually in his speeches at school he encourages students to do well in school, progress and set goals for themselves.

Wednesday his issued a challenge to educators.

"Take a minute, step back from your normal duties," Smith said. "and think 'is this for me?'"

Smith said if a teacher is not completely dedicated to student success they are doing the children they teach a disservice.

As a mental health counselor for the Georgia Department of Corrections, Smith said he has seen many young people come into the prison system who said adults in their lives did not care about them.

Smith also spoke to the theme of the program - "Freedom Is Not Free" - saying if people did not understand the meaning of this then the country had a problem.

He added freedom comes at a cost not only to those who serve in the armed forces, but also their families and the United States workforce.

After Smith's speech, the Fort McPherson Army Ground Forces Band played a few patriotic selections beginning with a John Phillip Sousa piece.

They then played "The Battle of Trenton" - a song dedicated to the surprise Christmas Day attack against British forces, which many historians regard as the turning point of the American Revolutionary War.

In the piece, thuds of the bass dr um represent cannon fire and "Yankee Doodle" can be heard as a taunt to the primness of the English forces.

Percussion signifying explosions of war were also featured in the "Fort McHenry Suite." During the War of 1812, the British Navy attacked Fort McHenry. Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star Spangled Banner," which can be heard faintly in the suite, during the siege.

Audience members who served in the United States military or had family members who did or are serving were asked to stand when their branch's theme was played during "The Armed Forces Service Medley."

The band concluded their performance with Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever."

Post 233 Legion Riders then conducted the solemn ceremony of the laying of the wreath for those who have fallen in battle and were buried unidentified or in unmarked graves.

Burnette ended the event by saying special programs are not needed to show troops appreciation.

"Simply offer them your hand, and thank them for their service," Burnette said. "As long as there are men and women willing to serve our country, there should be those willing to stand up and honor their service."