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Veterans banquet, concert planned

With Veterans Day coming up, the staff and students at West County High School are preparing for their annual Senior Citizen and Veterans Banquet, with a veteran meet and greet returning for the second year for students to get personal time with some of the local heroes.

The banquet has been held for approximately 10 years, hosted by the school’s FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) chapter, with the meet and greet implemented last year to allow students and veterans to actually connect.

West County High School FCCLA President LillyAnn Swyers said experiencing the meet and greet last year really brought a new perspective to the school’s honoring of veterans.

“It opened my eyes a lot,” she said. “I got to hear their experiences firsthand, rather than just reading an article like we do in class. It helped a lot.

“I feel like it’s important because students get to meet the veterans one-on-one. They get to hear about the experiences they had in the military. Maybe if the students are wanting to join the military, it helped them a lot too. It’s a great educational opportunity.”

For the first half of the school day on Wednesday, after a FCCLA-provided breakfast, veterans will be on-hand on the school’s mezzanine for the first half of the day. During this time, each class will have an opportunity to visit with the veterans and hear their stories of service.

On Thursday, veterans and senior citizens are invited to attend the annual banquet, also on the high school mezzanine. Dinner will be provided by FCCLA students at 5 p.m., with a patriotic concert to follow.

“We hold the veterans banquet to give back to the veterans because of all they’ve done,” Swyers said. “We want to get the students involved in giving back. We’ll be doing a lot of preparations—making food, decorations and making sure everybody has a job to do and reaching out to veterans.”

Last year, Swyers said members of the FCCLA chapter took a trip to Washington, D.C. and visited the nation’s war memorials there, which added an additional layer of respect and opened the door for a potential opportunity in the future to assist local veterans after hearing about a program over the summer.

“I went to Girls State over the summer and I heard about this thing called ‘Honor Flight,’” Swyers said. “It takes elderly and disabled veterans and flies them out to the war memorials in Washington, D.C. because some of them are unable to get out there because of medical conditions. I want to incorporate that and raise money to get them to D.C.”

The chapter will be working on ways to raise money toward that goal in the future.

In the meantime, the FCCLA students are preparing to welcome veterans into the school, bridging the generational divide in order to give students a more full appreciation for what the nation’s veterans have done.

Attendees of a previous Veterans Banquet at West County High School take time to talk after dinner and before the start of the annual patriotic concert to follow. This year's banquet will be held at 5 p.m. on Thursday at West County High School.

Attendees of a previous Veterans Banquet at West County High School take time to talk after dinner and before the start of the annual patriotic concert to follow. This year’s banquet will be held at 5 p.m. on Thursday at West County High School.

Jacob Scott is a reporter with the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616 or at jscott@dailyjournalonline.com.

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