Drae Allen is 2021 Kelley Award winner

Liz Beavers
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Drae Allen, son of Latia Washington and Dwight Allen, was named recipient of the 76th annual Jonah Edward Kelley Award Friday morning at Keyser High School.
J. Edward Kelley Award recipient Drae Allen is flanked by fellow nominees Darrick Broadwater (left) and Bradley Sommers.

KEYSER - Draetius “Drae” Marcel Allen is the 76th recipient of Keyser High School’s Jonah Edward Kelley Award.

In a COVID-affected ceremony where facemasks, a limited audience,  and no guest speaker were the order of the day, Allen more than made up for the lack of a motivational speaker with his own emotional tribute to Ed Kelley and heartfelt thankyou to coaches, teachers, friends and family.

“This day is not about us,” he said of himself and fellow nominees Darrick Broadwater and Bradley Sommers, explaining that the day was in honor and tribute to KHS graduate Jonah Edward Kelley, whom he called “a prime example of sacrifice.”

Kelley sacrificed his own life during World War II when he and his men were ambushed near the small town of Kesternich, Germany, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Allen said Kelley’s actions “created a path for many of us.”

Calling Kelley a “natural born leader,” Allen said he “exhibited characteristics not many others could.

“He died a heroic death by ensuring the safety of his troops. His death was not in vain; he saved many lives.”

Allen also thanked all other veterans and currently active members of the military, assuring them “your acts never go unnoticed.”

In an emotional thank-you to his family, Allen noted that they were able to overcome some difficult challenges in their lives to help influence him to become the young man that he is today.

He closed his comments with a challenge to his fellow students and underclassmen: “I challenge you to make progress every day,” he said. “It does not have to be substantial … it can be anything you want.”

Allen is the son of Latia Washington and Dwight Allen.

Darrick Broadwater also paid tribute to Kelley and all veterans, noting that because of them, “we enjoy freedom and opportunity that most people take for granted.”

He also noted, however, that “those rights and freedoms come at a high cost … and we often forget or fail to appreciate the sacrifices they made.”

Broadwater is the son of Jeff and Mendy Broadwater.

Bradley Sommers called Kelley “a respectful, honorable and honest man … who lived his life working toward greatness.”

Giving a nod to the award ceremony itself, Sommers said being nominated was “a goal of mine since I attended my first ceremony in eighth grade.” He said Kelley, through his actions so many years ago, “set the standard” to which everyone today should aspire.

“Following Ed Kelley’s example will take you far,” he told his classmates and underclassmen.

Prior to announcement of the recipient of the award by Keyser Moose Lodge administrator and former Keyser High School principal John Haines, student speakers Sarah Sions, Sierra Hester, Taylor Stewart and Graci Crites presented the program “Brother to All,” talking about Kelley both as a KHS student and soldier. They also shared background information and photos of each of the three nominees.

KHS vice principal Torria Conner was the emcee.

Again, in a move to reduce the number of people in the KHS theater due to COVID restrictions, recorded music by the United States Marine Band replaced the traditional presentation by the Golden Tornado Band.

Members of the West Virginia Army National Guard presented the colors and also conducted the roll call of those KHS graduates who lost their lives during World War II.

Geoffrey Newlin, president of the J. Edward Kelley Society, made mention of the difficulties the three nominees - and all current students - have had to face in the last two years due to the pandemic.

“I can’t imagine being a student today,” he said, noting that the three nominees responded to the challenges with resiliency.

“Whatever you’re doing in your life after this,” he told them, “try to maintain that resiliency attitude. It will get you far wherever you go.”