Lonoke Schools hosted a Veterans Day Program for area veterans and the entire school district Monday at the Gina Cox Center.
The guest speaker for the event was US Army Col. (ret) David. T. Beranek, who is the president of the central Arkansas chapter of the Military Officers Association of America. Beranek’s main topic was about Lonoke County war hero Maurice "Footsie" Britt.
Britt was born in Carlisle but graduated from Lonoke High School. He was a star athlete at the University of Arkansas and played in the NFL for the Detroit Lions before serving in the army in World War II.
"He walked on the same ground as you do," Beranek said. "He is one of the greatest heroes to ever serve from the state of Arkansas."
After playing football for a year with the Lions in 1941, Britt joined the military after the war starter, Beranek said.
"He was in the first Army invasion of World War II," Beranek said. "Footsie Britt was leading a group of men to fight in America’s battles."
During the war, Britt lost his right arm.
"He saved many of his soldiers from being a casualty," Beranek said. "For that action, Footsie Britt received the Medal of Honor, the highest medal that this country can impose upon a military person. Some of you may have heard it called the Congressional Medal of Honor. The proper term is the Medal of Honor."
Beranek said the Medal of Honor recipients are perceived as being blessed.
"They receive, from the American government, a stipend for their rest of their lives," Beranek said. "They or their children can enter any of the military academies without any problems. They are saluted by their senior officers. They are very, very important people."
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Britt received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
"He’s a true hero and you, Lonoke, can be proud to say that you have one of the most decorated heroes of the second World War," Beranek said. "He is the first military person ever to win the highest three medals in the Army in a single war."
During Monday’s ceremony, Lonoke Primary School principal Rebecca Reed read an animated book about a child and her father who is on active duty. Reed’s father, James Price, served in the military, fighting in World War II. Her husband John Reed is a member of the Arkansas Army National Guard and has served overseas.
Closing out the ceremony was LHS principal Marc Sherrell, who is a veteran of the US Air Force, serving as a crew chief on the B-52 bomber.
"I received the National Defense Ribbon for service during Operation Desert Storm," Sherrell said. "We know what the military has done for us as a whole. But I would to take this time to thank the military for what it did for me as an individual. It took a young boy out of the cotton fields of southeast Missouri with no money, no future and no plan. It introduced him to a world of possibilities. The words, such as integrity, honor and brotherhood, were used on a daily basis. The bond I formed in the military are only surpassed by the bonds I have with my own family."
Sherrell said his service helped pay for his college, which "led to where I am today."
Lonoke superintendent Suzanne Bailey said she has seen ceremonies before on Veterans Day and wanted to do something like that at Lonoke.
"I felt this was such an important day that our students should be able to be involved and learn the importance and the meaning behind Veterans Day," Bailey said. "I felt the even went smoothly and was so proud of the students’ behavior. We have such great kids at Lonoke."
Bailey said the administrative team is already planning how they can make the event better next year.
The master of ceremonies for the event was LHS Junior ROTC Cadet Battalion Leader Michael Shinn. Cadet Elijah Siegrist gave the invocation. The JROTC color guard presented the colors while the Lonoke High School band played the "Star-Spangled Banner."
A video salute to student and staff family members who are veterans was shown on the HD video board in the Gina Cox Center.