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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Laverne 4-H’ers show appreciation for local veterans

STILLWATER, Okla. – The sun is barely peeking over the horizon as members of the Laverne Sr. and Jr. 4-H Clubs gather to unfurl about 40 American flags and place them at businesses along the main street of this small town in far northwest Oklahoma as a way to commemorate Veterans Day.

After placing the flags, the 4-H members pause for a moment at the Veterans Memorial and read the names on the wall of those who fought in the Spanish American War, Operation Endurance Freedom, Persian Gulf War, Vietnam, Cold War, Korean War, World War I and World War II.

For a quarter century, club members have been responsible for placing the flags at sunup on Veterans Day, before heading to school to spearhead the local Veterans Day Program, an event attended by the entire school body and many community folks. The 4-H’ers also partner with the American Legion, FCCLA and school music department to put on the program.

Jeremy Bockelman, who currently is a volunteer 4-H leader in Harper County and the athletic director at Laverne Public Schools, said he had no idea this project would still be going strong more than a quarter of a century after he started it. And at the time, he certainly did not realize his children would be an integral part of the group carrying on the tradition.

Bockelman was an active 4-H’er in Laverne and as part of his citizenship project, he implemented the Veterans Day Program at Laverne Schools.

“We didn’t have a program for veterans back in 1991. My grandpa, Vernor Bockelman, was a veteran of World War II and I thought this would be a great way to honor him,” Bockelman said. “It’s important to honor all the men and women who have served our country. We have a great turnout every year for the program.”

Bockelman has four children who participated in the program, and two of his daughters, Haleigh and Hannah, served as mistresses of ceremony.

“It makes me really proud to see my kids taking leadership roles with this program. I have a new baby boy, so I can definitely see my family being a part of this program for years to come,” he said.

Haleigh Bockelman, a senior at Laverne High School, said she, along with other club members, put out the flags on all federal holidays, as well as place flags on graves for Memorial Day.

“It’s important for us to honor our veterans and putting out the flags is a small price for us to pay to let our veterans know we appreciate everything they’ve done for us,” said Haleigh, who has been involved in this activity for nine years. “The veterans and the community are so appreciative of what we do, and I’m proud to honor my dad’s legacy and keep this tradition going.”

Carol Laverty, who serves at the 4-H educator in Harper County, and happens to be Jeremy Bockelman’s mom, said she is proud to be involved in such a great program and learning opportunity for students in Laverne Public Schools.

“We just didn’t have anything in the schools to teach our youth the importance of our veterans and what they did for our country. My son Jeremy wanted to expand his citizenship project and the 4-H’ers have continued it all these years,” Laverty said. “This is a great example of the impact 4-H has on a community and a wonderful opportunity for our club members to develop their leadership skills.”

Joanna Blackwell, a kindergarten teacher at Laverne, said her students love participating in the program.

“This program is inspirational to our students. They are in awe of our veterans and are especially excited to see them in uniform,” Blackwell said. “They love being part of the program by singing ‘Thankful for the USA.’ They truly are thankful. You can see it in their eyes.”

Glenn “Smiley” Shuman was a member of the 101st Airborne Division, 2nd Battalion with the Army in Vietnam in 1970-1971.

“That was the first time I’d been that far away from home for very long,” Shuman said. “I really appreciate the efforts the 4-H’ers put out to recognize the service these veterans have given to their country. We’re all really proud of our 4-H’ers for doing this program for us and the respect they show to us. A lot of people don’t really understand what Veterans Day is, and programs like this really helps the younger generation understand.”

Kristine Wells, who served in the Army in 1985-1989, said the program is a great civic reminder of the sacrifices made by military personnel.

“This is my first time to attend the program and it’s truly a great honor to have so many people recognizing the Armed Forces,” Wells said.

During the program, the 4-H’ers made a special presentation. A World War II scrapbook, put together by Irma Bentley Jett, was presented to Karen Bond, curator of the Gate Museum. This scrapbook contains hundreds of newspaper articles and photographs of about 350 members of all branches of the military from Harper and Beaver counties who served in WWII between 1939 and 1945. 

“As part of the citizenship club work, our club members took the scrapbook and cleaned it up and repaired it so we could present it during the ceremony,” Laverty said. “We also made copies of the scrapbook to put in the museums and libraries in Harper and Beaver counties. We’re so proud of this book and excited to share it with others.”

The Veterans Day Program concluded with those veterans in attendance coming on stage, introducing themselves and telling the audience in which branch of the military they served. The 4-H’ers then read a list of names of deceased veterans in the Harper County area.

Then, as the sun began to set in this small town where the big excitement is watching the Tiger football team on Friday nights at Kilmer Field, the 4-H’ers were back on the main street, rolling up the flags and storing them until the next holiday.

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CUTLINE INFORMATION: Laverne 4-H’er Tyler Kamp, along with 4-H volunteer leader Jeremy Bockelman, help place flags at businesses in Laverne as part of the annual Veterans Day celebration. The Laverne Sr. and Jr. 4-H Clubs have spearheaded the Veterans Day Program at the school for the past 25 years, a project started by Bockelman when he was a club member in the early 1990s. (Photo by Todd Johnson, Agricultural Communications Services)

Trisha Gedon
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
Oklahoma State University
136 Agriculture North
Stillwater, OK  74078
405-744-3625 (phone)
405-744-5739 (fax)
trisha.gedon@okstate.edu

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078
405.744.5000