Middle and Upper School students gathered on Thursday, Nov. 9, for the annual Edward H. Vick, Jr. '62 Veterans Day Chapel. Watch here.
Senior Chris Purnell introduced this year's speaker, his father, Christopher Purnell, Sr.
"It is an extreme honor and [gives you] a sense of pride to serve your country because anything worth having is worth protecting, and to be afforded that opportunity is a true blessing," said Mr. Purnell. "For me, the United States Army literally saved my life."
Mr. Purnell explained that as an 18 year old growing up in North Philadelphia, life was not always easy. "I was participating in a lot of street activities, and I was headed to be just another statistic," said Mr. Purnell. "It was a very dark place in my life; I was scared."
Mr. Purnell recalled meeting a man who gave him a card and told him, "if you want to have a better future, just call me." A few weeks later, after spotting the card on his dresser, he called. After passing the required tests, and fearing for his safety, the Army housed him in a hotel before he left to launch his military career. The Army recruiter paid for the hotel with his own money.
"I was in a dark place, and that is why I will be forever grateful for the military. It's a great opportunity, and I explored so many things. The exposure that I got changed my life completely," said Mr. Purnell.
Referencing this year's Chapel theme, he explained that one of the ways you can "transform your mind," is to look at things differently.
"I thought that dark place was going to be the end of my life," shared Mr. Purnell. "But what I know now is that at the end of your day and the start of your tomorrow looks the same. They're both dark. So what I thought was going to be the end of my life was actually the beginning of a new life for me."
He encouraged students to keep moving forward, even though they can't see the whole picture of where they are heading. "At the point and time of the appointed season, God will reveal just how beautiful your journey is," said Mr. Purnell. "The beginning of everyday starts off dark. Joy comes in the morning and midnight is morning. So enjoy the journey, and have fun on your ride."
Mr. Purnell served in the U.S. Army from 1998-2006. He is now the pastor of Elevation Family Worship Center.
Faculty, staff, and alumni who are veterans were recognized during the Chapel service. At the start to the school day, Upper School students placed hundreds of small flags on the Clark Campus Green to honor the nation's veterans.
In honor of the many years of dedicated service to The Episcopal Academy, Edward H. Vick, Jr. '62 Veterans Day Chapel was dedicated and named in Vick's honor in 2017.