Columbus Unified High School students honored local veterans Thursday with a reception and assembly.

Students heard a recorded message from Captain Casey J. Brown, U.S. Air Force. Captain Brown is a CUHS graduate from the Class of 2001. After high school, he attended the University of Arkansas from the Fall of 2001 through the Spring of 2006 graduating with a degree in Computer Engineering. Captain Brown also participated in the ROTC program while there. Captain Brown was the first co-pilot from his squadron to make Aircraft Commander.

The assembled students, veterans and community members also heard patriotic music played and sung by both the CUHS band and choir.

Senior Taylor Spear also read the memories of Arizona Sen. John McCain who endured five and a half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

“Let me tell you what I think about our Pledge of Allegiance, our flag, and our country. I want to tell you a story about when I was a prisoner of war. I spent 5 1/2 years at the Hanoi Hilton. In the early years of our imprisonment, the North Vietnamese kept us in solitary confinement or two or three to a cell.

“In 1971, the North Vietnamese moved us from these conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as 30 to 40 men to a room. This was, as you can imagine, a wonderful change. And was a direct result of the efforts of millions of Americans, led by people like Nancy and Ronald Reagan, on behalf of a few hundred POW‘s, 10,000 miles form home.

One of the men who moved into my cell was Mike Christian. Mike came from a small town, Selma, Alabama. He didn‘t wear a pair of shoes until he was thirteen years old. At seventeen, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He later earned a commission. He became a Naval flying officer, and was shot down and captured in 1967. Mike had a keen and deep appreciation for the opportunities this country — and our military — provide for people who want to work and want to succeed.

“The uniforms that we wore in prison consisted of a blue short-sleeved shirt, trousers that looked like pajama trousers, and rubber sandals that were made out of automobile tires. I recommend them highly; one pair lasted my entire stay. As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed some prisoners to receive packages from home. In some of these packages were handkerchiefs, scarves and other items of clothing. Mike got himself a piece of white cloth and a piece of red cloth and fashioned himself a bamboo needle. Over a period of a couple of months, he sewed the American flag on the inside of his shirt.

Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike‘s shirt on the wall of our cell, and say the Pledge of Allegiance. I know that saying the Pledge of allegiance may not seem the most important or meaningful part of our day now. But I can assure you that — for those men in that stark prison cell — it was indeed the most important and meaningful event of our day.

“One day, the Vietnamese searched our cell and discovered Mike‘s shirt with the flag sewn inside, and removed it. That evening they returned, opened the door of the cell, called for Mike Christian to come out, closed the door of the cell, and for the benefit of all of us, beat Mike Christian severely for the next couple of hours.

“Then they opened the door of the cell and threw him back inside. He was not in good shape. We tried to comfort and take care of him as well as we could. The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the middle on which we slept. Four naked light bulbs hung in each corner of the room.

“After things quieted down, I went to lie down to go to sleep. As I did, I happened to look in the corner of the room. Sitting there beneath that dim light bulb, with a piece of white cloth, a piece of red cloth, another shirt and his bamboo needle, was my friend Mike Christian. Sitting there, with his eyes almost shut from his beating, making another American flag. He was not making that flag because it made Mike Christian feel better. He was making that flag because he knew how important it was for us to be able to pledge our allegiance to our flag and our country.

To honor all of the men and women who have served our country, please stand as the flag is presented and join me in the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Spear then led the crowd in the Pledge.

Afterwords, Jacob Mogle and Brody Horn played “Taps“ to end the assembly.