Mission Valley school honors veterans

Mission Valley Elementary School held its annual Veterans Day program Thursday with several veterans as guests of honor including former prisoner of war Orby Ledbetter, 90. The program included patriotic readings, songs, cloggers, drill team and other performances.
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Orby Ledbetter ate a lot of rutabaga soup, sometimes with weevils in it, during his 19 months as a prisoner of war during World War II.

Ledbetter shared that and other stories of his service and confinement with students at Mission Valley Elementary School during its annual Veterans Day ceremony Thursday.

Ledbetter was among the soldiers who stormed the beach at Salerno, Italy in September 1943.

"In the mornings they'd give us tubs with brown water, I'm not sure what it was, I didn't drink it," Ledbetter said. "At dinner time they brought tubs of rutabaga soup, that's what horses and cows eat, but that's all we had to eat. For supper we had two potatoes about as big as a hen's egg."

When he was first taken prisoner, he was packed into a train box car.

"It was standing room only. I was against a wall and couldn't turn around. I went five days and nights without water, without food," he said.

In introducing Ledbetter, fifth-grade teacher Brenda Branton, said a note on a thank-you card to the veteran from a previous appearance best described the veteran.

"To a true American hero," the note read. "Someone that shares history that others only read about in a textbook."

Ledbetter and more than a dozen other veterans attended the program. The school has held the program for at least a dozen years, said faculty member Rhonda Goebel, one of the event organizers.

Early in the program, fifth-grader Garrett Cisneros was among students who talked about the meaning of Veterans Day.

"We want you to know how proud and honored we are with your presence here," he said to the veterans in attendance. "Know that the sacrifices you have made are appreciated by all. This program is our way of saying thank you and God bless."

The program included cloggers, patriotic readings, a program honoring the branches of the military and a drill team performance.

The program closed with the student body singing and signing "God Bless the USA."

Veteran Joe Talbott said he was moved by the program.

"It's great to see the kids getting involved so early," he said. "It makes you feel warm all over."