G.T. Norman students honor veterans; Nehmer receives service medals

REED CITY — At times, the gravity of the moment was too much for some, as they dabbed their eyes with tissue.

Seconds later, warm smiles grew on the faces of several dozens of veterans and their families, as students at G.T. Norman Elementary School honored them during the annual Veterans Day Celebration on Friday.

Principal DeAnna Goodman welcomed the special guests to the celebration, which opened with a slide show of many veterans who have ties to the elementary school and Reed City area.

“This spirit of honoring veterans has spread to Americans of all ages,” she said. “To honor those who have served and had to give the ultimate sacrifice, it has made America a great country.”

The school’s student flag crew, Capt. Colton Gilland, Lt. Isaac Haslam and Lt. Corin White, led the packed gymnasium in the Pledge of Allegiance and singing of the national anthem.

Students then set the white table honoring veterans, with significance behind everything placed on the table.

The highlight of the celebrate was the awarding of service medals to retired Sgt. 1st Class Russ Nehmer, a special operations soldier who served as a senior intelligence and special security officer during his military career. The medals were to be presented to him upon his retirement, but they were somehow lost in the paperwork.

State Rep. Phil Potvin, R-Cadillac, presented Nehmer with the Purple Heart for serious wounds he sustained in a rocket attack in October 2010 in Afghanistan.

“Russ has all the tenets we hope to have as Americans,” Potvin said. “Those values help keep our country strong and free.”

Nehmer was presented with the meritorious service medal by his son, Alistair.

Joined by some of his fellow other special operations soldiers, Nehmer, who choked up a couple times, explained all he did was his job.

“I’ve heard people say that I’m a hero, but I’m not a hero,” he said. “I served among heroes. There’s a lot of guys who didn’t make it back. Everyone can be a hero. Inside yourself, you can be hero. Young kids, you’re a hero.

“You can become a doctor or be in the military and do what we did, but in each and every one of us is a hero.”

Veterans were then recognized by their various branches of service and two received donated quilts.

Kim Donahue and Gabe Young, mother and brother to Spec. Brad Shilling, who died in November 2006 in Iraq, were presented the red rose from the white table setting, reminding people of the blood that has been shed and for the hope all soldier will return home.

Students then sang “God Bless the U.S.A.” and Boy Scout Troop 174 of Reed City saluted each veteran as they finished the celebration with cookies and cake.