FIRTH – From the time that we as a country decided to honor our veterans with a special day, Congress set aside Nov. 11 as Armistice Day because it fell on the day that the World War I Armistice was signed.

In 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day to include all of the veterans of wars in the history of the United States and was designed to honor and respect all veterans from all the branches of the military and to respect their sacrifices for serving in the military.

We celebrate and honor America’s veterans for their patriotism and love of country and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

Firth High School — through the efforts of teacher/coach/humanitarian Stewart Portela — began a time-honored tradition years ago of presenting an annual Veterans Day Program to honor and show respect to veterans who had served our country so well for so many years.

The program began as part of his classes on the United States military and their contributions to our country throughout the world and has evolved to the program that is presented today.

Portela retired from Firth High School last spring and began the transition of moving the program into the hands of students. He handed over the blueprint for how the program was to be presented and how to organize the entire show. He may have handed the blueprints over to the students, but the program still has Portela’s thumbprint all over it.

The program was everything that you might imagine it would be, from the opening remarks of three seniors — Deena Christensen, Ella Daniels and Aubrey Killpack who served as the emcees for the day and introduced the opening flag ceremony presented by 1/148 Field Artillery — to the presentations of plaques of four VFW or American Legion posts to the Citizen Awards to the presentations of plaques to the 124 honorees of the program, the day’s activities went along flawlessly.

One of the highlights of the presentations on this day honoring veterans was the keynote speaker, Brigadier General Farin D. Schwartz. He was introduced by a former keynote speaker in Lt. Col. Dwight Richins, who has served as a school administrator at Teton High School, Shelley High School, Hillcrest High School and West Jefferson High School during his education career. He was also deployed to Afghanistan as a member of the Idaho National Guard.

Gen. Schwartz’s comments were very poignant and emphasized the continued need for service in the military and how grateful he is for the continued active military that all hail from the Firth area.

“It is the willingness to serve this great country through the military that makes this country what it is today,” Schwartz said. “God bless Firth High School, God bless Idaho, and God bless this great country of ours.”

Principal Keith Drake was honored as the teacher of the year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9443 with the award being presented by Steven Faulkner.

Beverly McClendon received the “Spirit of Freedom Award,” an annual award that is sponsored and was created by Sen. Mike Crapo and was presented through his local office.

Courtney Tew, a Firth graduate, presented a recitation of a poem that she wrote when she was a student at Firth High School that has been published and has received some national awards titled “The Man I See” which was written about veterans.

There were two musical numbers presented by Blake Stewart as he presented the National Anthem early in the program and also sang “Hallelujah for Veterans.”

As the program was closing, the retirement of colors was made by the 1/148 Field Artillery unit and closing remarks were made by the three emceers to a standing ovation from the full house of attendees.

Lunch was provided by the Firth High School FCCLA program under the direction of Kellie Park to the veterans and their families who were in attendance.