A photo from West Iredell High School’s Veterans Day ceremony in 2019.

BY KARISSA MILLER

Students at West Iredell High School have devised a way to celebrate and honor the county’s veterans — and keep everyone safe — during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All veterans are invited to the annual Iredell County Veterans Day ceremony and BBQ lunch from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, November, 10 at West Iredell High School, 213 Warrior Drive, Statesville.

The school event, in coordination with the WIHS chorus and band, is planned by the West’s Army Junior ROTC along with South Iredell High School’s Marine Corps Junior ROTC.

Amber Lackey shows the route that veterans will follow on Tuesday, November 10. All veterans are invited to the socially distanced, drive thru ceremony at West Iredell High School.

“We’ve been working on this for about a month, and we’re not having it in the gym because of COVID-19. We will have a large drive-thru ceremony so that we can still honor our veterans,” explained Amber Lackey, the Battalion XO for West’s JROTC program and one of the coordinators of the event.

The ceremony is designed so that veterans can social distance and remain in their vehicles the entire time, Lackey said.

All cadets will wear protective face coverings, and wash and sanitize their hands regularly and wear gloves at the food station.

Designed like a car parade, veterans simply show up to the campus and will follow a guided route. Cones will be setup and law enforcement will be on hand to help. The cadets will direct participating veterans to different stops set up around the school.

Similar to past years, veterans will still be able to see the saber guard, hear patriotic music at one stop and songs sung by the chorus at another. At the final stop, volunteers will bring guests their food and drink.

The food is prepared by Cooking for Christ at no charge. School nutrition staff and teachers baked homemade desserts for each lunch plate.

The decorations won’t be as elaborate as in the past, Lackey said, but the event will honor each branch of the military service.

Decorations will include banners, student posters, a balloon arch, American flags and other special touches to make the experience memorable.

Lackey explained that cadets will create 50 themed posters for the event. That project requires some degree of research and demonstrates what that cadet might have learned about the military.

Freshman Tyler Pass made a poster to raise awareness about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Twenty-two a day means that 22 veterans die each day from suicide,” he said, regarding his poster’s message.

Posters will be staked into the ground or mounted onto poles around the school.

When JROTC students decided to do something special for the veterans of the county several years ago, they had no idea that their project would turn into a tradition that would draw hundreds of veterans each year.

“Not a lot of high schoolers are patriotic. We all look forward to it each year. I think it’s had an impact on our entire school,” Lackey said. “We want everyone to come out.”

Organizers hope to see more than 300 people come through the veteran’s day drive-thru this year, and they hope that those who attend enjoy it and feel appreciated.

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