Horace Porter students honor U.S. military

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Columbia - posted Tue., Nov. 12, 2013
First-graders read thank you letters to the veterans. Photos by Melanie Savage.
First-graders read thank you letters to the veterans. Photos by Melanie Savage.

State Rep. Tim Ackert (R-8) addressed the gymnasium full of students, teachers and visitors. Most of the population of Horace W. Porter School was represented at the assembly on Nov. 7, the school’s annual Veterans Day event. Ackert, noting that he’d served in the U.S. Air Force from 1981 through 1985, talked about entering basic training in Texas in 100-degree heat. Ackert had long hair, “but not for long,” he said. “Your life changes very quickly on that one day,” said Ackert. Ackert said that he attended numerous Veterans Day celebrations, and he felt that the Horace Porter assembly was among the best.

The event got students from many different grade levels involved. The small school jazz band performed "The Star-Spangled Banner.” First-graders read thank you letters that they’d written for the troops. Sixth-graders read letters that they’d received from soldiers posted overseas. Grade seven students read Veterans Day poems. Honors students read essays that they’d written on the theme of "Why We Honor Veterans." A slide show featured friends and family members who had served/were serving in the military. In taped presentations, second-graders shared the names of relatives who had served.

And kindergartners, also via video, explained the meaning of the colors on the America flag: red for courage, white for purity, blue for justice. And what is justice? Justice, explained one little boy, is when mom wants a piece of your banana and you share it with her.

The special guest speaker was Kent Phyfe, retired from the U.S. Army. Phyfe came to the podium with his black lab mix, Iris. Iris, he explained, was a rescue dog who’d rescued him. As a result of medical issues, Phyfe began having experiences where he would collapse. His condition, called neurocardiogenic syncope, caused a loss of consciousness associated with a drop in arterial blood pressure followed by a slowed heart rate.

“My kids used to find me on the floor,” said Phyfe. Spending an average of 10 days per month in the hospital, Phyfe said he became suicidal. Then he heard about America’s VetDogs. “I cried when I found out I’d be getting a service dog at no cost,” said Phyfe.

While he was still at the training facility with Iris, “She actually woke me up and stopped me from having to go to the hospital,” said Phyfe. Changing his thought process can head off an episode, and Iris can detect the onset of an episode, said Phyfe. She can even call 911. “So she got me active and gave me my life back,” said Phyfe.

Phyfe said he even regained his ability to drive. “The veterans who are coming back today are in the same kind of shape that I was in,” he said, emphasizing how important it is for others to benefit from the support of America’s VetDogs.

According to Phyfe, it costs $55,000 to breed, raise and train one veteran service dog. For more information, go to http://www.vetdogs.org.


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