WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Servicemen and civilians alike, hoards of people gathered to honor those who have served in the armed forces during the Veterans Day Ceremony.

The annual Wichita Falls Independent School District-sponsored event sprang alive at 11 a.m. on the dot on Friday, November 10, 2023, in solidarity with Veterans Day’s early beginnings after a ceasefire was called for World War I on Armistice Day 105 years ago.

Addressing veterans’ service to our nation, Sheppard Air Force Base Brigadier General George Dietrich III shared his own experiences in the service and extended gratitude for his fellow vets.

Brigadier General George Dietrich III addresses JROTC, vets

“Those among us whose hair is perhaps graying a little and have a few more aches and pains than they once did but who continue to wear their uniform or other symbols of service proudly,” Dietrich said, “Thank you. Thank you for your service and for preserving the freedoms we hold dear.”

For years, students and faculty of WFISD have hosted the veteran-honoring ceremony, demonstrating the holiday’s importance to the leaders of tomorrow.

“It’s important that our young students learn about the sacrifices made and the courage it takes to defend our beloved country,” Superintendent Dr. Donny Lee said. “Remembering and honoring our veterans is a year-round commitment. We must support them and their families in every way possible and serve them as well as they have served our nation.”

Dr. Lee expresses his gratitude to audience members

While Sheppard Elementary students sang harmonies of patriotic tunes, Junior ROTC programs from Hirschi, Rider and Wichita Falls High Schools stood respectfully at attention.

“Many of them will go on from here to serve in our nation’s military forces and will become the veterans we gather to honor on a future day,” Dietrich said, addressing the JROTC students. “I sometimes hear people ask, ‘Does today’s generation have what it takes to defend our nation?’ Let me assure you, they do. Each week, I have the honor to welcome hundreds of new airmen to Shepperd as they begin their career training. They are eager, smart, patriotic and capable.”

An airman who’s been stationed in both Europe and Africa, Dietrich expressed his sincere gratitude for Wichitans in particular.

“I’ve never been stationed anywhere where the community has been so supportive of the military,” Dietrich continued. “So, being able to participate in events like these, it’s the least we can do and just give back to the community that’s so good to us.”

A veteran saluting as Sheppard students sing

Rounding off the ceremony, Dr. Lee and Board Vice President Mark Bloomberg placed an honorary wreath at the base of the Military Monument. Other significant community members were in attendance as well, including those who are veterans themselves.

“This is amazing. The singing [was] phenomenal — it brought a tear to my eye,” newly elected councilman and Air Force veteran Mike Battaglino said. “This Veterans Day weekend, please shake a veteran’s hand, look them in the eyes, and tell them ‘Thank you for your service’.”