By Connor Clark
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter
DEWITT — Once upon a time, soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War were badly mistreated when they arrived back home, according to Vietnam War veteran David Laycock.
“When I came home I was beaten three days later in the streets of Lansing,” Laycock said. “They ripped up my uniform and would spit on me.”
Although the widely-unsupported war maybe an extreme example, DeWitt Public Schools and businesses paid tribute to all veterans with ceremonies and donations on Nov. 11.
Christy Stehouwer was in attendance for the ceremony. Veteran’s Day is very important to her because she has family members that served in the military, according to Stehouwer.
“It is a great way for today’s youth to see and experience the past,” Stehouwer said.
In the gymnasium of DeWitt High School, students from the high school, middle school, and elementary school, filled the stands. The sea of students showed support while the veterans walked into the gymnasium behind a bagpipe player.
Many tributes were made including: playing the song of each military branch, songs sung by the Herbison Woods School choir and the DeWitt High School choir, military salute for those who have fallen, and even a diploma for a former veteran.
Veterans that served, from Dec. 16, 1940 to May 7, 1975, are eligible to receive a high school diploma from their former high school because they were drafted into the war before completion of high school, according to the Public Act 181.
The guest speaker of the ceremony was veteran Paula Thompson. Thompson dazzled students with many realities of combat.
“For high school kids, you will be in class for about 33 months until graduation, 34 months is the time I spent in Afghanistan,” Thompson said.
Thompson was also displeased with the meager amount of time she was allocated to speak. Referring to her time on stage on numerous occasion.
“I could tell many important stories that are all longer than five minutes, however all the time I was allowed to speak for was a fast five minutes,” Thompson said.
As her time concluded, she left students with a few pieces of advice on how to honor veterans.
“Don’t just thank them on Veteran’s Day,” Thompson said. “When you’re at a concert or sporting event and they are playing the National Anthem, please for the whole two minutes, put the phone down and put your hand over your heart. Veterans notice these kinds of things and that flag [United States’ flag] is a symbol for all the freedoms that they fought for.”
Said Haycock: “I am so impressed with the respect kids have today. The kids were standing and clapping, it was very special to see.”
Thompson now owns four Biggby Coffee franchises and each year on Veteran’s Day, she donates half of her proceeds to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, according to biggbycoffee.com.
Sweetie-licious Bakery Cafe, a popular spot for sweet treats in the City of DeWitt, showed its respect to veterans by offering a free slice of its award-winning pie to any veteran.
“We love people and want to reach out to people, so that is why we offer that to our veterans for serving our country,” Sweetie-licious Bakery Cafe employee Stephanie Haynie said.