On Monday, Nov. 11, from 9:15 a.m. to 9:45 a.m., Spanish teacher and archivist Brenda Semmelrock and junior Riley Gravel led a special Veteran’s Day assembly in honor of the holiday. Riley opened the assembly, followed by a rendition of the National Anthem performed by the Outlook choir. Mrs. Semmelrock gave a presentation on the history of Kingswood and Oxford during World War I and II, and freshmen Jack Gold and Finn Wells played the National Anthem on electric guitar to close the assembly.
Riley introduced the assembly by sharing his own family’s experience as his father is a veteran. He encouraged students to thank veterans for their service not only on Veterans Day but everyday. He also shared a video exhibiting what it means to be a veteran.
After Outlook, a co-ed choir led by history teacher David Baker, performed the National Anthem, Mrs. Semmelrock began her presentation on life as a Kingswood or Oxford student during World War I and II. Drawing from myriads of files on Kingswood from 1916 to 1966, KO magazines, and a book covering 50 years of Oxford history, Mrs. Semmelrock painted the picture of what life was like for students at this time.
In World War I, both Kingswood and Oxford contributed to the war effort: Kingswood boys saved money for liberty bonds, and Oxford girls folded bandages. In World War II, boys were drafted into the military; faculty left school to serve and alumni were enlisted. Mrs. Semmelrock also described students returning to class in tears after assemblies announcing the deaths of students, alumni, and their relatives.
Next to the stage, Mrs. Semmelrock had a framed picture of 18 out of the 19 Kingswood boys who after leaving to serve in the military, did not return. The photos usually hang outside the Brave Space next to a larger board of names of alumni veterans. “Kids go by that photo board every day when they leave the cafeteria, I think they pass by there and they don’t take the time to look at those,” Mrs. Semmelrock said.”But I was hoping that with a little bit more personal information that the kids would stop and look at it and realize ‘Hey, I know a little bit about you, you were just like me’.”
Projected during the assembly was a photo of an article about Harold James Berry Jr., a Kingswood alum who served in Vietnam in 1966 and unfortunately did not return. The article included his many involvements at school, including acting, three sports, and editor of the newspaper.
Mrs. Semmelrock also read aloud a letter addressed to the Head of School at the time, Nelson Farquhar, from a Kingswood alum serving in Vietnam in 1966. The letter, detailing his time was in the trenches, was a solemn reflection of the reality of war for students at the time.
Overall, Mrs. Semmelrock hopes that the Veteran’s Day assembly made students think about their school from a different perspective and reflect on the men and women who gave their lives for their country. “I just hope that they stop to think that November 11 is a very important day for all of us and everyone who has served,” she said. “It is a day of remembrance and we need to take the time.”