State Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, returned to his alma mater Thursday morning, reminding Palestine High School students that the “real heroes are the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way” to ensure the freedoms of others.

Staples, a 1981 graduate of Palestine High School, was the featured speaker during a Veteran’s Day assembly at the PHS gymnasium.

Six local veterans — Bill Rodgers; Gary Williams; Guadalupe Orozco; L.E. “Cush” Reeves; Kenneth Ives; and Mitchell Spencer — sat in chairs on the gym floor during the program and were recognized with applause on several occasions.

Staples, who is running for state agriculture commissioner next year, told the students that “sometimes we get confused in America about who heroes really are.”

People such as Michael Jordan, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, the senator said, are great athletes, but not necessarily heroes.

“The real heroes are the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way so we can have freedoms,” Staples said.

These heroes, the senator added, often work weekends and holidays, missing birthdays, graduations and, in some cases, even the births of their children.

“Time does not stand still for those who bear the responsibility of ensuring your freedom and my freedom,” Staples said.

The senator also challenged each member of the Palestine High School student body, telling them they were leaders in one sense or another.

“I want you to stop and think that each one of you in this room today is a leader,” Staples said. “You’re a leader whether you recognize it or not...You can lead in a positive way or a way that is detrimental. Regardless of the circumstances around you, ultimately you make the decision about the kind of leader you will be.”

Performing during the assembly was the Palestine High School band and the Kik-Kats drill team, in addition to the high school and middle school choruses.

PHS senior Megan Roe sang the “National Anthem.”

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Paul Stone may be contacted via e-mail at pstone@palestineherald.com

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