Honoring veterans at Vancleave High School

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Vancleave High School has been honoring veterans in a special annual ceremony longer than some of their students have been alive.

A sea of red, white, and blue, and a patriotic salute as veterans took a front row seat at the 17th annual Veterans Day program at Vancleave High School, honoring all who have done their time, answering the call of duty.

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They also paused to remember the 83,000 servicemen and women who have yet to return home. Vancleave High student Luke Jones said, “I love the country. It just saddens my heart when people disrespect the country. The men and women that fight for the country, not just those that go overseas, but those that are in the community.”

Vancleave High graduate Ethan Smith once sat in these stands. On this day, he returned as staff sergeant with the Mississippi National Guard and speaker at the program. “Looking back now, from sitting out here to the stands and then coming out and being able to come back to the high school and give back to the community and be able to speak in front of it is actually pretty surreal.”

Music pierced to the hearts and souls of some, spreading healing for wounds that aren’t always easy to see. U.S Navy veteran Steven Walmsley said, “This brings back memories from years ago. A lot of us were in service during the Vietnam War. It was awful hard when we came back because we didn’t get the respect. We were just doing what our country asked us to do. It means a lot for us today to see the respect we get from our young kids.”

Veteran Ellis Olsen said, “And I’ll tell all these boys, one asked me all about it, he’s going to join the Marine Corps. I said you go right ahead. I was in there. I’ve been out 61 years.  I’d go back right now if I had to because I could still do it, and I’m proud of it, too.”

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Toni started at WXXV News 25 in December of 2013, just three months after the news was launched. She has served as Assignment Editor, anchored for nearly two years, worked as a reporter for several years and hosted Coastal Connections for more than four years. Toni graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Southern Mississippi where she was editor of the Student Printz. She then did an internship on Capitol Hill, working for a U.S. Senator, then returned to Mississippi as a reporter at WDAM in Hattiesburg. After that, she moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, working as a reporter for FOX 25 in Biloxi, then crossing city lines to work at WLOX-TV news in Biloxi, starting out as a producer, then working as a photographer, reporter, weekend assignment editor and weekend anchor. She was among the station team that won the Edward Murrow and Peabody awards for coverage during Hurricane Katrina. Toni moved to the Lone Star State where she worked as the morning and noon anchor, investigative reporter and live shot reporter for KZTV Action 10 News, then KRIS TV News in Corpus Christi, Texas. Toni moved back to the Magnolia State to be with and take care of her family, working as a multi-media journalist and fill-in anchor at WDBD Fox 40 news in Jackson. After almost completing a second degree in filmmaking at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, Toni transitioned back to news at News 25. Toni is blessed to have a wonderful support network of close family, friends and mentors, and she hopes to pay it forward. She has a three-legged chiweenie named Rocky Balboa because of his fighting spirit. She loves writing and has completed a novel that has been adapted into a screenplay, and has just finished another screenplay called "Delta Rose." She's currently working on a new legal thriller called "Fall From Grace." Stay tuned.... If you’d like to book a live in studio interview on News 25 Today, just email: tmiles@wxxv25.com. These interviews can have up to two guests, last about two minutes and showcase community events, non-profit organizations and things of interest to people in our area…and they’re FREE! Just send information about your event, including date, time, location, contact number and/or website for viewers wanting more information, along with the proper name and titles of the person or two people who will be interviewed, and Toni or producer Porsha Williams (pwilliams@wxxv25.com) will get back with you via email in a timely manner to book a date. Typical interview times are daily at: 5:45, 6:45, 7:45 or 8:45 am. Guests are asked to arrive about 30 minutes beforehand. You can also ask about booking a live shot on location for news events for our 6 and 7 am newscasts. We look forwarding to having you!

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