The group of 10 came from all branches and many eras of American military service: Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, ranging from veterans of World War II, the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm to those actively serving today.
Their diverse backgrounds, however, produced a unified message of encouragement, perseverance and patriotism Friday for students from Yaakoosge Daakahidi, the alternative high school in Juneau.
For the second straight year, in honor of Veterans Day, local veterans and current military personnel spoke to students about their experiences in the service and answered their questions.
Overcoming obstacles and staying committed to success were recurring themes.
"Any one of you out there can do what we up here have done, if you believe in yourself and believe in your country," said Cary Brown, who served with a Special Forces unit.
Alaska Army National Guard Maj. Matthew Magsino told students to set one goal at a time and give it all their effort - starting with getting their diploma.
"Keep your eyes on that, keep focused on that - and when you get that, look ahead," Magsino said.
Respect for the country, its traditions and its veterans also were discussed. The speakers led the students in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during the assembly.
Vietnam veterans Pat Farrell and Bob Armstrong said they came to speak to students to help them learn. "It's to facilitate awareness of what protects and keeps this country free," Armstrong said.
By opening up to the students and answering their questions, Farrell said he hopes the students will be better citizens - and possibly be inspired to serve their country.
"The more you give, the more you get back," he said.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Armstrong and Farrell said they have mixed emotions about the renewed sense of patriotism in the country.
"It's good to see, (but) it's sad that it took something of such proportions to get it," Armstrong said.
Senior Sasha Klanopt said she left the assembly feeling that veterans deserve more gratitude for their service. "They need a little more respect. They did give their lives up" to serve the country, she said.
Senior Blayne Hildebrand, whose husband is serving with the military in New York, said she was particularly inspired by speaker Ellen Campbell, who completed flight training with the military during World War II and served with the Women's Air Corps.
"That was amazing," Hildebrand said. "I just never comprehended the fact that women could be pilots. That was the most profound thing."
School Principal Ronalda Cadiente said the veterans have made the assembly a success for the past two years.
"The veterans have been amazing and very willing to help," she said. "The heart and compassion they have to share is what really hits home."
Local Veterans Day events today include a ceremony at the National Guard armory at 11 a.m. and a chili feed at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building, behind the Baranof Hotel, beginning at noon.
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