"Honoring our veterans is not just one day," was the message Robert Hibbett gave to the crowd gathered at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy on Monday during the school's Veterans Day program.
School officials had the annual program in the sanctuary of the parent church, First Baptist Church. Greg McDougal and his children opened the ceremony by singing the "Star Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America." The family's performance was followed by a slideshow depicting images of veterans in wartime, as well as photos of Jesus with Bible verses, created by Military Veterans for Christ.
The academy's band followed the slideshow by playing "America the Beautiful" before the "Procession of Patriots," in which each branch's military song was played. During each of the songs, veterans from their respective branch of service stood up and received large rounds of applause from the crowd. Nearly all military branches were represented.
Hibbett, the guest speaker, took the podium. Hibbett, assistant district attorney for the 15th Judicial District and himself a veteran, spoke to the students and community members about what Veterans Day means to him.
"I feel very small today, because I've been asked to represent the veterans of our country today."
Hibbett retired from the Army National Guard with 30 years of service.
"I am proud to be a veteran," he said. "I served in the 130th Rear Area Operations unit in Iraq." During his time there in 2008, Hibbett said he took part in guarding Iraqi detainees.
He had a special note for the students in attendance, saying "a veteran is not necessarily an old guy who served in Korea. Veterans are people amongst us, young and old."
He also brought a Blue Star service flag and explained that anyone displaying such a flag had a family member currently serving in the military in a foreign country.
"When I was in Iraq, my family flew this flag," Hibbett said.
He ended his speech by telling those assembled that veterans across the country "signed a blank check to protect our country whenever and wherever they are needed."
State Sen. Mae Beavers, who attended Monday, presented Hibbett with a U.S. Army flag that was flown over the state Capitol as a thank you for all he has done for Wilson County, as well as Tennessee.
Country star Daryl Worley, who has children that attend Mt. Juliet Christian Academy, closed out the ceremony with a few of his hit songs.