|Lt. Col. Russell Sears shakes hands with one of the World War II veterans attending the program at Handley High School. (USACE Photo/Kristin Hoelen)
WINCHESTER, Va. – Lt. Col. Russell Sears, Middle East District Deputy Commander, served as keynote speaker during John Handley High School’s annual Veterans Day program Nov. 4.
Following Handley High School’s Hilltop Singers’ Star Spangled Banner, Dr. V. Douglas Joyner, the school’s principal, welcomed the audience. Michael Foreman, director of the school’s museum and archive, then recognized veteran Handley graduates, many of whom served in wars and conflicts starting with World War II, other veterans and distinguished guests including Winchester’s Mayor, the Honorable Elizabeth Minor, and Randy Bryant, from the Winchester school board.
Sears’ remarks about the significance of Veterans Day and importance of respecting veterans included personal experiences from his more than 1,000 days in the Middle East supporting Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He talked about people not realizing or forgetting that we are at war, including a young driver he had in Iraq who had surprisingly commented about their surroundings looking like a war movie. He mentioned a tough-as-nails Soldier brought to tears by the temporary chaos following an insurgent’s suicide bomb attack against their unit.
Sears reminded the audience of the saying, “All gave some, but some gave all.” He shared that everyone who has been in combat has lost something of themselves, piece of their souls, on those battlefields. He concluded by asking everyone in the audience to honor the sacrifices of those who served by living a life worthy of their sacrifice.
Following his remarks, Sears was presented with the Handley Pride Award. The Handley High School band performed the Armed Forces Salute, recognizing each of the services in turn – Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. Veterans and family members of veterans were asked to stand during the anthem associated with them.
Sears has been with the Middle East District, headquartered in Winchester, Va., since August 2010. The district is responsible for providing engineering, construction and related services in the Middle East, Central Asia and other areas as required. Middle East District work includes designing and constructing facilities for use by U.S. forces, performing engineering activities for other U.S. government and foreign agencies, and providing operations and maintenance services for various customers. The District also provides project management, engineering, contracting and support services to Corps of Engineer districts in Afghanistan.