On Friday, Nov. 10, the Niangua school district held its Veterans Day Assembly. The assembly included programming to honor veterans and educate the public about the ultimate sacrifice service men and women make. However, students, teachers, and community members in the crowd were in for an extra special surprise.
"We have been doing this assembly since I've been here, and it dates back way before I was here," explained Clint Gazette, Niangua Junior High and High School Principal. "It is always a huge deal. We have many people in attendance and it's a positive event for the community."
Before offering closing remarks and thanking attendees for their time, Gazette mentioned a particular local family with a father who was deployed.
Missouri National Guard Specialist Joseph Long, who has been serving as a reservist in the National Guard 294th Engineer Company, has been on a ten-month deployment. That Friday, he was welcomed home warmly by the Niangua community after surprising his family at the assembly.
"It did not take long for his kids to figure out it was him," said Teresa Jennings, Art Teacher at Niangua Schools and mother-in-law of Specialist Long. "They knew it was him before the second paragraph was finished."
Long returned home to see his wife, Andrea Long, and their five kids, Payton Long, Bella Long, Marjorie Patton, Nevaeh Patton, and Grace Long, along with the rest of his family.
Before the surprise, Jennings had spoken to the administration about doing something special for Long's return.
"Mr. Baker was gung-ho about it and said 'Sure'," explained Jennings.
"We were honored to help out Mrs. Jennings and her. family," said Niangua Superintendent Dr. David Baker. "We appreciate this service member and want to value their families. We're going to do what we can to recognize those who serve, their families, and the sacrifices they have made. I'm very honored that our district was able to do that."
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