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Tim Burke: Showing pride for newest graduates, reflecting on history

Life for this year’s Pahrump Valley High School graduating senior class will have quite a different immediate future in front of them than did those who were graduating during World War II.

Last Friday evening was the graduation ceremony for the 2019 seniors from Pahrump Valley High School. The event epitomized many of the positive aspects of rural life. There was a large community turnout to see the seniors gathered together one last time before they started their new chapter in adulthood. Moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, siblings, friends, and neighbors were all in attendance and excited to celebrate this important event in the graduate’s life. You could sense the community pride and comradery among those in the grandstands and on the field. It’s these types of community events that help keep our small-town atmosphere and rural feel here.

These graduates will take many different paths. A few will leave to attend universities in different states. Some will stay in state and will go to college in Reno at UNR or UNLV. Others will go onto community college here at Great Basin Community College or perhaps commute to the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas.

Others will go to trade school or join an apprenticeship program. There will be graduates that go directly into the workforce earning their first paychecks. Still others will get married and start a family after graduation. A few will join the military. Many will move away from here and some will stay. Whatever their divergent paths will be, they will be very different from those of the students who graduated high school in the early 1940s.

Coincidentally, the graduation took place just a few days before the annual D-Day anniversary and the timing caused me to reflect on what a different world it is now for our graduates compared to those during World War II. June 6, 2019 marked the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

On that June day in 1944, the largest amphibious assault in history took place on the beaches of Normandy, France. The Allied Forces landed over 150,000 troops and of those, about 73,000 were Americans. The balance of troops was comprised of mostly Canadian and British forces. It is estimated that the Allied Forces had over 10,000 casualties that day with over 4,000 deaths.

Many of the American troops going ashore that day were under 20 years old. They were either drafted or they had enlisted in the effort to defeat the Axis powers. It was not uncommon for someone too young to serve in the military to lie about their age so they could enlist. Even as young teenagers they were willing to serve their country and fight for freedom.

There have been many wars since World War II. Some just, others not so. No war has galvanized and united the citizens of our country more than the way that World War II did. It took the combined efforts of all Americans to make such a massive undertaking as D-Day possible. No matter what your ethnicity, your religion, your sex, your politics, or your income status, everyone was expected to help in the war effort, and they did so willingly. Americans worked together putting aside their differences.

Many of those early 1940’s high school graduates never came back from the beaches of Normandy. Because of their sacrifice and the sacrifice of others in the short history of our country, our local graduates like all other graduating classes in America, have the freedom and opportunity to achieve great dreams.

It is somewhat discouraging to see how strong and united our country was during World War II compared to our present-day soap-opera politics and constant squabbling over issues that pale in comparison to war and Americans dying fighting for our freedoms. All hope is not lost however when you are able to attend your local high school graduation and see that there are great young adult Americans with hopes and dreams that they want to achieve. Our future rests on the shoulders of these graduates and those that will come after them.

Now graduates of Pahrump Valley High School, it’s your turn to do great things!

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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