At a young age, Missouri National Guard veteran Charlotte Dudenhoeffer was taught to never let go of her dreams. The speaker at the fifth annual Jefferson City High School Salute to Service assembly told the crowd Friday that learning and service are an important part of life.
"Through my service in the Missouri Army National Guard, I feel like several of my life dreams have been achieved," Dudenhoeffer said. "I look at each day, and still do, as a day to learn something. It's never mattered how big or how small it is; it is the learning that is most important."
She compared her time in basic training to the 1980 film "Private Benjamin."
"I had no idea, no idea, what I was getting into," Dudenhoeffer said.
As an example, she arrived in high heels and a skirt hauling two suitcases full of fashionable clothing, she said.
She quickly learned what serving the United States was about and spent six years as an administrative specialist.
"Even though I never saw battle or was in any type of conflict, I learned a great deal about my country, its flag and what it truly, truly stands for," Dudenhoeffer said. "I learned what others gave up for me so that I could live a life of freedom."
Jefferson City Police Officer Christopher Gosche also spoke during the assembly.
Before becoming a school resource officer, Gosche traveled the world for seven years in the Missouri Air National Guard.
The Jefferson City community and students excel in recognizing veterans and law enforcement, he said.
PHOTO GALLERY: 2019 Veterans DayRead more
As a JCHS alumna, Dudenhoeffer was also proud of the recognition and volunteer efforts of the JCHS Student Council.
The program has been run by student leaders since 2014. The organization is also involved with other veterans' programs throughout the year.
When students lead, it makes an impression on other students and the veterans, Vice President Laurie Shoki said.
In recent years, the student council has looked for ways to improve the school's Salute to Service week. Speakers became a part of the program last year, Shoki said.
New this year, a free breakfast before the ceremony gave students an opportunity to talk to local veterans, special events chair Angela Lopez said.
"It's really important to thank them face to face in an intimate setting for all they've done for our country," Lopez said.
Earlier in the week, the student council held a patriotic pancake breakfast to raise money for children who lost their parents in military service, social media chair Karlie Allen said.
The nonprofit Kids of Our Heroes Adventure Camp sends youth on a week-long experience in the Ozarks. A check for $250 was presented to Sgt. Maj. Joyce Hart in their honor.
Near the end of the event, Shoki and student council President Johnathan Scott read "Lost Generation" — a poem by Johnathan Reed describing failure or hope depending on the direction the words are read.
They said the poem was their favorite part of the revamped assembly, which they hope inspires their peers to be optimistic about the future.