BY SHERI TRUSTY
The Beacon President Ali Hermes and her Marine Corps veteran husband, Michael Gilbert, were honored to attend the Perkins High School Veterans Day Luncheon at Faith Church with their children, Nolan and Naomi Gilbert. The event was unique because students were encouraged to invite a family member who served in the military, opening the door for greater connection between the generations.
“It’s an opportunity for students at the high school to bring a guest who is a veteran,” said Perkins High School Building Secretary Jen Ott, who organized the event with Readiness Educator, Ali Lange-James. “It starts a conversation between them, and the kids understand what they did and what they gave to our country.”
Navy veteran Thomas Walton was grateful for the opportunity to spend time with his nephew, Kaleb Towner, at the luncheon. Walton served as a hydraulics mechanic with a helicopter squadron in Norfolk, Virginia, from 1985 to 1989.
“I worked on H-53s. They are the largest helicopters in the world,” Walton said. “This luncheon is nice. It’s nice to get everyone together and learn more about each other.”
Student Bob Hutchinson invited his great-grandfather, Waldo Porter, to the luncheon. Porter served in the Marine Corps from 1954 to 1957. He spent part of that time in the infantry in Japan and served as an MP in Washington, D.C., for 14 months.
“I was part of the guard when Eisenhower was inaugurated. I was within ten feet when they pulled his car in,” Porter said. “It was exciting. I was 19-years-old at the time.”
Hutchinson already knew about his grandfather’s military history before the Perkins luncheon. Porter often shares stories of his service when the pair hunt for turkey, deer or rabbit together.
“We just talk about everything,” Hutchinson said.
Allen Kidd served as a crypto operator in the Air Force from 1960 to 1968 and spent time in Japan, Turkey and Vietnam.
He attended the luncheon as the guest of his grandson, Dakota Brown, who, thanks to his grandfather, is a future military hero. Brown plans to join the Air Force Guard after graduation. Brown’s parents are also military veterans.
“I inspire to be like my grandfather,” Brown said. “We’re really close. He was in the room when I was born, and he’s always been with me. He inspires me to be a better person.”
Perkins High School Principal Jeff Harbal thanked the veterans for their service to the nation. He said the luncheon was a small token of the school’s appreciation.
“Each uniform represents not just a person but a story of courage, sacrifice and patriotism,” Harbal said. “Your sacrifices paved the way for the freedoms we hold dear.”