Each year at its graduation ceremony, Ridgeview High pays tribute to a Central Oregon veteran whose military commitments prevented them from earning their own diploma.

On Nov. 7, some of the veterans who received honorary diplomas from Ridgeview came back to be honored again — along with dozens of other veterans. They were part of the school’s annual Veterans Day assembly.

“I love it,” said David Fair, who was honored by the school at its 2017 commencement. “They not only do it for us, they also remember us. When we walked into the room, everybody was saying, ‘hi,’ which means a lot for us.”

Fair, who served as an Army combat medic from 1968-86, said the reception is a far cry from what he received when returning from the Vietnam War.

The veterans enjoyed breakfast before the half-hour ceremony, where the student body packed the gymnasium and gave standing ovations to the veterans as they entered and left.

“I can’t put it into words, it’s wonderful, I don’t even know how to say it,” said Joan Proffitt, who, along with her husband, Dick, was the honorary graduate in 2018. “They do such a great job of it — a great bunch of kids.”

During the assembly, Ridgeview social studies teacher Barry Branaugh said the students should look up to the assembled veterans.

“Maybe we don’t know their names,” he said. “Chances are they never made it to the big leagues, MTV Awards or the Oscars. Very few of these individuals you see sitting in front of you, have probably been asked for their autograph. But, ladies and gentlemen, these are the real heroes.”

Branaugh recognized Robert Maxwell, who was the nation’s oldest living Medal of Honor recipient when he died at 98 May 11, with a moment of silence. The Bend resident, who saved lives by falling on a grenade in France during World War II, was a regular attendee of past Ridgeview Veterans Day events.

The school’s band and choir performed “Taps,” followed by a medley of songs from the five branches of the service, with veterans from each branch standing during their song.

Ridgeview principal Lee Loving said the school started having informal Veterans Day chats with those who served when it opened in 2012. But former assistant principal Kathleen Glogau came up with the idea to make it a more formal ceremony a few years later.

Giving veterans the treatment they haven’t always received is important for the school, Loving said.

“We hope they feel appreciated and respected, but we hope they feel, even more, loved,” he said.

Joe Kosanovic, who portrays Uncle Sam in the Redmond July 4 and Bend Veterans Day parades, once put on similar events when he was a history teacher. The Navy veteran from 1966-69 said it is important to show young people how things have changed over the years.

“Because of the veterans of World War II, there isn’t a German flag flying over here,” he said. “That could be possible if it wasn’t for the brave courageous veterans.”

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

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