Trinity honors veterans through annual program


Rows of chairs lined the gymnasium floor at Trinity Lutheran High School.

The majority of the chairs were occupied by those who were tasked with defending freedom in uncertain times.

That’s why the school organized its annual Veterans Day program.

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The program included prayer, recognition of veterans, patriotic activities, a tribute to local veterans, a keynote speaker and a reception.

Principal Clayton Darlage first recognized all veterans by having them stand while the crowd clapped continuously for a few minutes.

Assistant Principal Michael McBride introduced U.S. Army veteran Justin Manning of Columbus.

Manning joined the military after he received his GED in Columbus.

“I was in trouble a lot as a kid,” he said. “I went back and got my GED, and at 18, I joined the Army.”

Manning said the Army only accepted a certain number of GED recipients at that time, so he first served in the National Guard.

He attended basic training at Fort Jackson in North Carolina and deployed shortly after that to Afghanistan.

He was there a year in 2004 and worked in a depot that supplied the Afghan military.

“We were there to really get them going,” he said. “We helped establish their army.”

He reclassified to infantry.

“I was better at walking around the desert than anything else,” he joked.

Manning arrived back home in late 2005 and proposed to his wife. They married a year later.

Then a second deployment came, but this time to Iraq.

Manning helped provide security to civilian contractors who drove trucks.

“We’d have a 40-plus convoy of trucks loaded with supplies,” he said.

Shortly after being deployed, he found out his wife was expecting their first child. He was able to return home to witness the birth of their son in December 2008.

“I decided after that that my family was the most important thing even though I felt like the Army was a calling,” he said.

Every now and then, Manning said he still thinks about re-enlisting to serve again.

“I miss it and would go back in a heartbeat, and it’s something I struggle with,” he said.

Members of the student council read each line of the Pledge of Allegiance and explained what it meant.

Student council President Josh Rowe said his generation should make everyone aware of what the Pledge of Allegiance means and continue to remember it.

“We are the ones responsible for sustaining its legacy for generations to come,” he said. “We are one people with one heart and one mind. We are the benefactors and beneficiaries of democracy.”

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