Students at Barnesville School of Arts & Sciences welcomed a retired Army Brigadier General and three members of the Maryland National Guard to take part in the school’s Veterans Day celebration. The active and veteran military personnel spoke of their shared commitment to service and honored all who serve and have served in the United States Military.
Barnesville parent and retired Army Brigadier General Norvell Coots, currently the President and CEO of Holy Cross Health, spoke, sharing stories about his and others’ military service. In his extensive career serving around the world, he has been a leader at all levels, including medical company, clinic, hospital, and medical center. He has received numerous awards and decorations including the Distinguished Service Medal and the Defense Superior Service Medal.
Dr. Coots came dressed in WWI “doughboy” uniform in honor his grandfather’s cousin who earned the Distinguished Service Cross, our nation’s second highest military decoration. While commanding a medical unit, the Army medical officer left the protection of the trenches to join his company on the battlefield. Despite being gravely wounded, he continued to command the unit to safety before dying.
Dr. Coots’s son, a sixth grader, held his father’s general’s flag while he spoke, telling students, “Don't ever hesitate when you see any of your relatives who you know have served, or your friends, neighbors, family… always go up to them and say: ‘Thank you for your service.' To a veteran, that means the world.”
He then blew a trench whistle to signal a moment of silence in honor of all who have made the greatest sacrifice for our nation.
The annual Veterans Day ceremony is organized by a committee led by Dona Kaufman, the School’s Teaching and Learning Coordinator, who said, “Dr. Coots had a very compelling message for our students. While he honored individual valor on the battlefield, his overwhelming message was of service before self.”
“As this is Barnesville’s 50th anniversary year, we have been talking a lot about community. I thought it was important for students to meet members of the military who are serving our local community,” Mr. Nelson said.
Students met SFC Bradley Maxwell and Sgt. Christopher Nicholson, who serve in the Recruitment and Retention Battalion, as well as SPC Mariah Murray, who is part of a medical company based out of Olney. They shook hands with each student and shared their experiences being deployed in various territories for humanitarian and law enforcement missions.
The Guardsmen drove an armored medical Humvee to campus and explained that this type of vehicle is used to transport medics on patrol and to render aid in combat. Students were able to see the vehicle up close, sit inside, and ask questions.
The Veterans Day ceremony also included the Pledge of Allegiance, readings, and a song. Students also planted American flags along the School’s driveway and decorated red, white, and blue stars honoring family members and friends who served from the time of the American Revolution through to the more recent conflicts of Afghanistan and Iraq. Students were encouraged to consider making a small, personal donation to the Fisher House Foundation, which provides free or low cost lodging to veterans and military families receiving treatment at military medical centers.
The Barnesville School has a long-standing tradition of honoring military service. Each year, Lower School students write letters of thanks to active duty service members.