Natchitoches Central High School students gathered for a Patriot Day Program on Sept. 6 to remember those who were injured or died during the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. The ROTC Color Guard performed a presentation of colors. The NCHS Orchestra then played the Star Spangled Banner, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence.
NCHS Principal Bill Gordy welcomed dignitaries from law enforcement, military, fire departments and first responders who sat in a place of honor.
“We’re recognizing these selfless people,” he said after he recited a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
NCHS Teacher and Veteran Lesa Thompson seconded Gordy’s sentiment. “We honor you today because you embody what it means to be an American,” she said. “We honor your willingness to run toward danger when everyone else is running away.”
Creator of the American Warrior Initiative Louise Thaxton introduced the keynote speaker. Thaxton has traveled extensively for the past few years for the American Warrior Initiative, inspiring and educating Americans on the importance of giving back to the men and women of the United States military.
“We have to do something to bridge the gap between the civilian world and those who serve us,” she said.
Keynote Speaker and Gold Star mom Karen Vaughn looked around the gym packed with students and said, “What I see in you is the reason my boy gave his life.”
Vaughn is the mother of fallen US Navy SEAL, Aaron Carson Vaughn (SEAL Team VI). On August 6, 2011 Aaron was killed in action in the Tangi River Valley of Afghanistan when a chopper (call sign Extortion 17) carrying thirty Americans was shot from the sky while rushing into battle. Loosing Aaron changed everything and launched Karen on a brand-new path.
Over the past eight years, Karen has emerged on the national scene as a powerful spokeswoman for not only our defenders still fighting on foreign soil and securing peace across the globe, but also as an advocate for a better, stronger, more resilient America.
Carrying on Aaron’s legacy has brought this Gold Star mother through the halls of Congress and into multiple National Press Conferences. As a cultural and political analyst, Karen has written for several of our nation’s leading news outlets with many of her articles going viral. She’s a regular guest on multiple national news programs and has interviewed with well over 100 national and local radio shows. Karen has been featured on large stages across the country as a keynote speaker, including a prime-time guest speaker position during opening night of the 2016 Republican National Convention.
Karen is the bestselling author of World Changer: A Mother’s Story and serves as an advocate and national speaker for the American Warrior Initiative Freedom Tour. She also serves with the non-profit her family began in honor and memory of her son, Operation 300.
“My son died for every single human being alive at that time or that would live in the future,” said Vaughn. “If we fall apart by hating each other I’m gonna feel like his life meant nothing. We can’t let it happen. If he were here today he’d tell you to love your country.”
The event was closed out with a presentation of gifts to the gold star family, to Thaxton, and to Vaughn. Thompson then recognized Bobby and Tonya Watson, a gold star family. Gold star families are the relatives of US military members who died in battle. The Watson’s son Jason attended Natchitoches Central. He went on to join the military and was lost to a roadside bomb in 2009. Thomas presented the Watsons with a special gift: a copy of their son’s yearbook, which she spent the last few years filling with his classmates’ signatures. Vaughn received a very special painting created by a student at Natchitoches Central.