The Slater High School band and Shyanne Sellers performed "The Star-Spangled Banner," which was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the opening prayer. The high school choir also performed.
In his opening remarks, event organizer Charlie Guthrie said, "Let us never forget that we are one nation under God with one flag and one language."
Next was a salute to the troops by Jean Gallagher, Sam Jones, Margaret Pond, Wally George, Sharon Crawford, James T. "Tut" Bellamy and James Nichols. First, the prisoners of war/missing in action flag was presented. Then followed the flags for each division of the Armed Forces, accompanied by the appropriate song. The veterans of each branch stood for their flag and song.
Slater Mayor Stephen Allegri spoke, telling a story about how young some veterans were -- the age of many of the high school students in the bleachers -- when they first tasted combat.
"What bravery they must have had," he wondered. "I think of the parents wondering, 'Where's my kid?'"
In response, Tony Gallagher noted there were many veterans of the World Wars who were under 18.
"I was 15 on the front lines," he said.
Circuit Judge Dennis A. Rolf spoke next, recognizing the town of Slater for its American spirit.
"I know no other (town) that shows such patriotism in its school and community," he said.
One of the highlights of the event was the tribute to Sept. 11, 2001, now known as Patriot Day. With patriotic music playing over the loudspeaker, all the participants in the assembly walked into the middle of the gym, stood in two lines and raised their clasped hands to the sky. The audience stood up, too, to remember those lost in New York City, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.
The special speaker, Rep. Joe Aull (D-Marshall), followed the tribute. He mentioned his time as a teacher in Slater and how he had played basketball in that very gym. Aull jokingly tried to get Guthrie to promise never to run against him for office. Then, Aull posed a hypothetical situation to his audience.
"Let's imagine that we had no veterans," he said. "You wouldn't enjoy any of the freedoms we have today."
To the high school students he said, "Imagine if someone said to you tomorrow, 'We're going to send you to Fort Leonard Wood.'"
Mentioning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the political disputes surrounding them, Aull said, "Regardless of how you feel (about the issues), these veterans overseas are heroes. Let's make sure they get the respect they deserve."
As he finished his speech, Aull showed his roots as a teacher by outlining four things students, and all citizens, can do to be in the "spirit of the veteran": discipline, hard work, courage and caring about others.
Another highlight of the assembly was a performance by the Junior ROTC drill team from Sedalia's Smith-Cotton High School. Earlier in the week they competed in Georgia and placed third in the nation. The team's commander is Sgt. Maj. Randall Woods.
To finish the display, the American Legion men fired a 21-gun salute just outside the gym, followed by a rendition of taps.
Slater High School Principal Jim Audsley prepared the students to return to class and thanked the community for their attendance. He mentioned his son and daughter, who have both served 15 months in Iraq.
Tony Gallagher closed the assembly with a prayer for America and her veterans.