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HONORING SERVICE, SACRIFICE

Jacob Helms, 5, talks on the phone with his father, Sgt. David Helms deployed in Afghanistan, on Friday after the Veterans Day Salute at Glencairn Garden in Rock Hill. Behind Jacob is a lifesize cutout of his father, who is serving with the Army National Guard's Bravo Company.

Students at Bethany Elementary School in the Clover school district gather outside their school to honor veterans Friday morning.
Jacob Helms, 5, talks on the phone with his father, Sgt. David Helms deployed in Afghanistan, on Friday after the Veterans Day Salute at Glencairn Garden in Rock Hill. Behind Jacob is a lifesize cutout of his father, who is serving with the Army National Guard's Bravo Company. Students at Bethany Elementary School in the Clover school district gather outside their school to honor veterans Friday morning.

Veterans were honored across York and Chester counties on Friday with events that ranged from somber to festive. Here's a sampling of three events held in observance of Veterans Day, which is Sunday:

Young boy celebrates, then talks to his dad

Five-year-old Jacob Helms sat quietly with his kindergarten classmates as an honor guard hoisted flags, fired off ceremonial gunfire and played Taps on a bugle Friday morning at Rock Hill's Glencairn Garden.

Then Jacob joined his family to recognize Veterans Day in their own unique way: They passed around a cell phone and spent a few moments talking with Dad, who called from the military base where he's serving in Afghanistan.

Sgt. David Helms is serving overseas with the U.S. Army National Guard's Bravo Company.

Moments earlier, the Helms family listened as Jacob performed "Sing Out For Your Country" with his classmates from Oakdale Elementary School. Listeners also heard the official songs for each of the military's service branches. An honor guard procession ended with a black flag honoring prisoners of war and fallen soldiers.

"I get chills every time I carry it," said James Bobb, a Navy serviceman who spent a year in Vietnam. "It's the most important thing in my life."

Bobb and others who served in faraway lands can surely understand what Helms and his family are going through.

"He's doing good," said Helms' wife, Wendy, who is taking care of two other young sons at the family's home in Edgemoor. "He's homesick."

Most of the veterans who took part in Friday's ceremony completed their service long ago. But for the Helms family, sacrifices are still being made daily. Asked how much he misses his dad, Jacob didn't hesitate with an answer: "Bad."

For widower, a simple act of appreciation

Eugene Worthy didn't know the lady who pinned the gold cross and the red, white and blue ribbon on his jean jacket.

Worthy, a Vietnam vet who served in the Marines for 11 years, watched as the wives of other veterans pinned small badges of honor on their husbands during an event at the Little Theater at the Chester Park Elementary School of the Arts.

Worthy is a widower, so he stood alone until the lady illustrated what the school's "Proud of Our Veterans" program was all about.

"It was really touching," Worthy said. "It's nice to know that somebody's thinking about you."

During the program, chorus students dressed in American flag-colored top hats and vests, red shirts and black pants sang patriotic songs and honored the 23 veterans who attended.

They were people such as U.S. Navy men Harold Baldwin and Dale Roddey, both of whom served during the Korean conflict.

"You know that they appreciate what you did for them," Baldwin said of the students.

"Thank the Lord that somebody cares enough to put on a program like that," Roddey said.

Cooney Wishert, a Chester native who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, wore a shirt designed to look like an American flag. He hoped the children would understand the importance of the sacrifices made for their freedom.

"Without freedom," he said, "what do you have?"

Showing patriotic spirit at a young age

It was easy to spot the veterans at Independence Elementary School.

They wore T-shirts, hats and uniforms, proudly marking their time in the military.

"They're learning early of our background and our heritage," said Fred Shipman, a former Marine who came to his grandson's school in a red, white and blue hat and a Marine Corps T-shirt. "It's an important thing, and I think it's important for them to learn."

Students sang the songs of each branch of the military and thanked servicemen and servicewomen with the song "Proud of our Veterans." Many wore red, white or blue clothes and waved miniature flags.

The ceremony brought tears to the eyes of 22-year-old Rachel Huddleston, a Rock Hill native who joined the Air Force at 18. Her husband has served several tours in the Middle East.

Huddleston said events such as this one are important so that young people "can learn how to have pride in their country. That's very important. Because a lot of people don't have it."

-- Jessica Schonberg

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