CLEARFIELD — Bloodshed and tears commemorated a high school assembly Thursday at Clearfield High School.
As part of the ceremony, held in honor of Veterans Day, students had a chance to recognize one of Clearfield High School’s graduates, Rocky Olson, who a few years after graduating was drafted into the military during the Vietnam War.
Twelve Clearfield High School graduates were killed while serving in the Vietnam War — seven of them personal friends of Olson, who was a combat infantry soldier in South Vietnam in 1968 and 1969.
Remembering those friends, even 40 years later, brought tears to his eyes as the flag was brought into the gym for the ceremony.
“These students here don’t understand yet what it really means to salute a flag, because they haven’t yet experienced what it means to have lost those who paid the ultimate price for them,” Olson said.
That is exactly why the high school’s administration, along with the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program, decided to have a veterans ceremony for the students.
After Principal Suzi Jensen thanked Olson for his service and dedication to the country on behalf of those in the audience, she presented him with a plaque and then turned her attention to the students in attendance.
“All of my young Falcons, you need to know what a really special occasion this is,” Jensen said. “He is one of us, and like him, you too will be doing many great things in your life.”
Olson never thought he would find himself being honored for his service in the very gym where he once participated in athletics for the school.
Olson told the students that, when he was their age, he had the same desires and goals, including girls.
“The Vietnam War was only a small blip on our radar, but in 1966, just two years after I graduated, my buddies started getting draft notices, and in 1968, I got drafted, too, along with many other Clearfield High School graduates,” he said.
“Many of them died, or returned home wounded, physically and mentally. This morning, I represent all of them.”
For senior Colton Thiel, Olson’s words were an eye-opener.
“I didn’t realize we had fellow Falcons that fought for our country; I just didn’t think about it,” Thiel said. “It was nice to see (at the assembly) that we can stand together and be strong as we go into the future.”
In an impressive sight, nearly 160 JROTC cadets from Clearfield High, with a few visiting from other JROTC programs, lined up in straight rows.
It was a moving experience for senior Kaylee Rish, whose dad is currently serving in Kuwait.
“This experience personally means a lot to me with my dad and seeing everyone come together and support the troops,” Rish said.
Maj. Kit Workman, the senior instructor for the JROTC program at Clearfield High, helped organize the ceremony, knowing the students would benefit from the experience.
“It’s important that we take a moment to remember the sacrifice of those who have gone before, and those serving today, and those serving tomorrow, which will include many of our students,” Workman said.
In his 18 years working with the JROTC program at Clearfield, Workman said, more than 200 students have chosen to go into service for their country.