Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day is a dedicated time to honor our active duty and veterans of the armed forces in appreciation for our freedom. There was a time when O’Neal was in session on Veterans Day. It was seen as a great opportunity to invite other students to visit on campus whose schools were closed. Around 2010, the enrollment of military families started to increase.
In 2013, military spouse and Parents Association President Kari Smith presented the idea of having a military appreciation assembly and breakfast for the military families. With school in session, it celebrated Veterans Day with this event in 2013 and 2014. In 2013, O’Neal had an enrollment of approximately 18% military families. Today military families represent close to 30% of its students.
At the first assembly, in the Hannah Center Gym, the Brownie Troop presented the colors, all active military, veterans and their families joined together on the gym floor to say the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Stan Bradshaw, past parent, current trustee, retired Marine and member of The Patriot Group – a nonprofit organization supporting veterans. Headmaster Alan Barr recited the poem “In Flanders Fields” as the Brownie Scout Troop place hand-crafted poppies at the base of the American Flag. There was special music from students including the National Anthem by Danielle Cormier ’14 who is now singer/song writer in Nashville.
In 2015, the military appreciation event was celebrated on a different day than Veterans Day, giving families the day off from school for proper recognition. Kari was able to secure the 82nd Airborne Chorus to perform at the assembly. Select middle school students, many who were military children, recited essays they wrote on what freedom means to them.
Every year the event has grown substantially in attendance. Pete Kakouras, O’Neal parent and owner of Pete’s Restaurant with assistance from the Parents Association, would provide a sit-down breakfast for all the families after the assembly in the School’s dining commons.
In 2016, guest speakers were invited to participate. O’Neal parent and retired Lieutenant Colonel Doug Woolley was the first be invited. A complete list of speakers are…
2016 – Lieutenant Colonel Doug Woolley, Ret’d – O’Neal Parent – See Assembly Video
2017 – Lieutenant Colonel John Samples – O’Neal parent and Trustee – See Assembly Video
2018 – US Airforce Chief Master Sergeant Charlie McHarney – O’Neal Parent – See Assembly Video
2019 – Retired Admiral Leighton Smith – O’Neal Grandparent – See Assembly Video
Also in 2019, the Afable family presented the School with a wooden American flag, hand-crafted by Sophie and Livi Afable with help from their uncle. The flag now hangs in the Gutschmit Family Atrium of the Hannah Center.
2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic prevented O’Neal from having the event, but the Parents Association produced a great video commemorating our military community.
This event has been greatly missed and the entire community is looking forward to the assembly on Friday, November 12th. O’Neal parent, retired Lieutenant Colonel Matt McGraw will be our guest speaker. Our O’Nealers will be performing. Kari Smith, the one who spear-headed this event starting nine years ago, is now our education technology specialist and has produced a very special video for those attending.
Everywhere you look, you see community at O’Neal, but at this event community shines.
Falcons Fly to 50
O’Neal is excited to share its history with readers as it quickly nears its 50th year in educating and cultivating youth in becoming successful, effective contributors to communities large and small. The official celebration starts school year 2021/2022. This weekly blog will focus on different aspects of the School as it grew through the years. With every entry, there is just as much more information to gather than what is already written. Readers who have been a part of the O’Neal community are encouraged to reach out and share their O’Neal memories. It is with great hope that the efforts of many in contributing information and photography can be published into a book for reflection and reference as the School continues to prosper for the next 50 years.
Please send your memoirs and photos to:
The O’Neal School
c/o Kathy Taylor, Director of Communications
P.O. Box 290
Southern Pines, NC 28388