EARLY — Early High School welcomed nearly two dozen veterans to a veterans appreciation program Thursday morning that featured patriotic music, spoken words, cheerleaders holding large American flags and the opportunity for students to greet the veterans and shake their hands.

Lunch, catered by Chipster’s Barbecue and sponsored by area businesses, was served later at the Early Visitors and Events Center.

At the high school program, the veterans, students and staff who gathered in the gym were treated to performances by the Early Elementary School Choir and the high school band.

Retired Navy Chaplain Jim Looby said he wanted students to remember the words “unity, community and opportunity.”

“These three words kind of encapsulate the way I feel about being in the military,” Looby said, noting that he served in the Air Force in the 1960s before serving in the Navy for 27 years.

Looby said some of the students might be considering the military, which he described as a “band of brothers. Looby acknowledged that members of the different services poke at each other.

“Go Navy, beat Army!” Looby called out.

Looby said the military is a great career, noting the Veterans Administration paid for his education at Howard Payne University and later at seminary.

“I receive veterans medical care,” Looby said. “It’s good care, regardless of what you read in the news. And I have a good retirement, the opportunity to do what I want and travel where I want.”

A performance by cheerleaders included three of the cheerleaders being hoisted aloft and supported by the outstretched hands of other cheerleaders, then unfurling large American flags.

As the assembly ended, students filed past the veterans, some of them in wheelchairs, and spoke with them before returning to class.

A Veterans Day service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 11, at the Central Texas Veterans Memorial in Brownwood.