With unwavering respect and heartfelt gratitude for the brave individuals who have selflessly defended our nation, Nansemond-Suffolk Academy brought together students, military families and members of the local veteran community for our Veterans Day celebration, held on November 10 in the Thomas W. Johnson Gymnasium in the Beazley Center. The annual event demonstrates NSA's commitment to paying tribute to our service members.
Head of School Mike Barclay opened the celebration, welcoming everyone to the Main Campus, including keynote speaker and past parent Commander Robert Stambaugh, United States Navy, retired, Army veteran and Mutts With A Mission executive director and founder Brooke Corson as well as members of the Board of Trustees and other special guests.
"We sit here today, enjoying the freedoms we do, because of those in this room, and not in this room, who serve, have served and given their lives in dedication to our country, allowing us our freedoms," said Mr. Barclay. "For those men and women currently in uniform and veterans, again, thank you for your tireless efforts on our behalf."
Mr. Barclay then introduced emcee Izzy Rose '24, who is a senior at NSA and the daughter of Lieutenant Karen Rose and Lieutenant Junior Grade Ryan Rose. During her remarks, Izzy talked about how Veterans Day was established and how the military influenced her upbringing.
"Even though they both left the military around my birth, the influence of having Navy parents is definitely present in my life," said Izzy. "Annapolis and the Naval Academy are places that my family frequent, and the Army-Navy football game is a family tradition we never miss – Go Navy! Many of our family friends are people whom my parents met while serving in the military. This has created a tight-knit family for me to grow up in that is instilled with the values of service."
Izzy then welcomed Aaron Rodriguez '36 to lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. The Middle and Upper School choruses followed, with a rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" and NSA's alma mater, "Hail to Nansemond-Suffolk." Then, as a poignant tribute to our guests, Middle and Upper School chorus members performed "Thank You, Soldiers" by Michael and Angela Souders. The song begins with the lines, "When I lay my head down every night and go to sleep in peace, I can stay there knowing all is well while you're standing on your feet. Keeping watch, protecting shore to shore, in the air and oceans, too, defending freedom at all cost, for the red, white and the blue."
The musical tributes to veterans continued, as Lower School music teacher Rebecca Bass '09 directed fifth graders in performing "On Veterans Day" by Karl Hitzmann. The song, which was also performed in this year's fifth grade program, includes the lines "You sacrificed to serve our nation. You make us proud in many ways. Because of you we have our freedom. We honor you on Veterans Day."
In addition to celebrating service men and women, Veterans Day has become a special time for the NSA community, because it is marks the service anniversary of our facility dog, Jett, who was introduced at last year's celebration through a partnership with Dr. Adam Henderson '03 and Dr. Kate Henderson, co-owners of Tidewater Animal Clinic, and Mutts With A Mission, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that trains service dogs for disabled veterans, first responders and law enforcement at no cost to the recipients. Facility dogs, like Jett, are expertly trained dogs who partner with a facilitator and work in a health care or educational setting to help more than one person at a time. Unlike therapy dogs, who typically spend only a few hours working, facility dogs “work” full-time at the organization. To commemorate Jett's one-year service anniversary with NSA, Bella Booze '29 shared more information about the impact that she has had on our community.
"With an intentional focus on improving the mental health of our NSA community, Jett has been working with our school counselors daily and is a source of joy and comfort for all," said Bella. "She is a beloved addition to our Saints family, and we have all witnessed the positive impact Jett has had on our community."
In honor of Jett's service anniversary and her birthday on November 16, NSA is holding a donation drive for Mutts With A Mission, where families can purchase items the organization needs to raise its next generation of service dogs and facility dogs. For those who love dogs, Mutts With A Mission is always looking for families to serve as "puppy raisers," who will help raise the dogs during their training before they are placed in the community. For more information on becoming a "puppy raiser," visit the Mutts With A Mission website.
Following Bella's speech, Izzy introduced the keynote speaker, Commander Robert Stambaugh, United States Navy, retired. Commander Stambaugh is the father of Reid '21 and Cami '23. He began his military service in 1979, when he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. After completing boot camp and the School of Infantry, he served as a recon scout in both Okinawa and North Carolina. He was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 1983, after having attained the rank of Sergeant. Commander Stambaugh then attended the University of Florida, graduating with honors in 1988 with a degree in microbiology and cell science. In May 1992, he graduated in the top third of his class from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, with his Doctor of Medicine degree. Furthering his education, he attended the Naval Undersea Medical Institute in Groton, Connecticut, and graduated as an undersea medical officer in December 1993. Various duty assignments include Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Naval Special Warfare Development Group at Dam Neck and Naval Special Warfare Group 2 as diving medical officer in support of SEAL Teams Two, Four and Eight. Commander Stambaugh has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in addition to other deployments to the Middle East, Central America, Europe and Asia. He is one of very few Navy physicians to be awarded the Bronze star and Combat Action Ribbon in Iraq. His other military awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Navy Commendation Medal and many other awards and citations. He has also been awarded U.S. Marine Corps Parachute Wings, U.S. Navy Scuba pin, U.S. Navy Diving Medical Officer insignia and the coveted U.S. Army Ranger tab.
Dr. Stambaugh is now a fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine and a diplomate of the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He retired from the United States Navy on October 1, 2009 and joined Chesapeake Emergency Physicians, serving as a staff emergency medicine physician at the Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. Dr. Stambaugh retired from his medical practice in December 2022.
"I would like to say that I am humbled by and deeply grateful for the opportunity that I have had to serve our great nation," said Dr. Stambaugh. "I learned valuable lessons, received a first-rate medical education, had unbelievable experiences and made friends who became lifelong brothers. Even 40 years later, I have no doubt that if I were ever in trouble, I could call, and they would come."
After Dr. Stambaugh concluded his speech, the NSA band, directed by Sarah Eubanks '11, played "Veterans Salute" arranged by Jay Dawson and "A Sousa Spectacular" by John Philip Sousa and arranged by Dallas C. Burke. Attendees stood to be recognized as the song for their branch of the military was played.
When the band finished its performance, senior and Office of Admissions intern Kyra Bradford '24 approached the podium to wrap up the celebration with a final thank you to our service members.
"We acknowledge the time spent away from family and personal pursuits, the physical toll of training and fighting and the scars that remain when the battle is over," said Kyra. "Every citizen owes a debt to every veteran for their service and our freedom. And while we can never truly understand their sacrifice or repay their service, we can honor them, be thankful for them and remember them. We would particularly like to honor and remember those members of our Saints community who are currently serving in harm's way. Your service and sacrifice represent the best of us and the best of America."
Kyra then presented Commander Stambaugh with a special token of appreciation for being our keynote speaker and invited all veterans and honored guests to remain in the gym for light refreshments as students returned to class.
Thank you to all our veterans today and every day for your service and sacrifice!