Here's an excerpt from his speech:
"In 2009, Matt, my brother, stood right here and gave the closing speech to his graduating class. He said the four years of high school were the fastest years of his life. Pride dictates that I must not acknowledge the fact he was right . . . (but he was) . . . Tonight, May 24, 2013, our season at Ripley High School officially ends. Tomorrow we turn the page . . . How many towns do you know where the Mayor (Carolyn Rader) stands on the street corner at 7 a.m., waving the high school flag as she gets everybody riled up for that night's game? . . . These are things I will always remember and always cherish . . .
"At this time I would like to ask six of my classmates to join me on stage. Please bear with me while they make their way up here. (At this point, six students quietly rose and walked onto the stage. Three stood on one side of the speaker and three on the other.)
"I come from a background of God, family, and country. My father and grandfather were both enlisted Marines, and I have a special place in my heart for those in the military. I can think of nothing more noble and honorable than defending our country and freedom. I wish to thank Michael Hellems, Chad Longanacre, Zack Haga, Brandon Walters, Martin Kulh and Tyler Pittenger for their decision to join the military. I am honored to call these men my friends."
Each of the six young men received applause after my grandson, Andrew "Andy" Mellert, the valedictorian, announced his name. Andy learned early to combine physical fitness with mental alertness, knowing one would enhance the other. Although Andy could bench press 300 pounds, earning him the rare title "Iron Viking," his first priority was consistently academics.
I know my grandson agrees that brainpower, not brawn, will be our nation's most important asset in this age of technology when even a frail person could push a few buttons and destroy the entire world. Perhaps, then, it's time for us to move beyond "kids' country" and place priority on scholars while still enjoying sports.
Contact writer Dolly Withrow at ritew...@aol.com.
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