I have been blessed with many opportunities in my life from becoming a mom to three wonderful healthy children, finding the love of my life and being fortunate to find a career that gives me immense pleasure in watching children discover their possibilities and teachers and staff helping to make those possibilities a reality for each child. Last week I witnessed a first in my career and wanted to share with you the remarkable experience if you were unable to attend. I am referring to the Veterans Remembrance Assembly on November 10, 2015 at Brewer High School.
This morning began with a breakfast prepared by our kitchen staff. Our student council served up scrambled eggs, sausage, pancakes, and cinnamon buns along with coffee, tea and juice to over a hundred veterans and their families. Conversations between the army, navy, marine corps, air force and coast guard filled our beautiful cafeteria space. Teachers, staff members, and students stopped to thank veterans for their service to our great country. Smiles, laughs and even a few tears were shed as stories were shared about those service men and women that passed away during this year as many of these veterans return year after year to participate in this assembly.
I smiled as I shook the hands of so many veterans that day and held back a tear myself as I thought about what each of these veterans have done for the freedoms I am lucky to have today. After breakfast, our veterans assembled outdoors and lined up by military branch. As the 195th Army Band and Select BHS Band Members played the processional “Branch Themes”, each branch was led into the gymnasium to a standing ovation. I was so proud of our students as they stood a little taller and honored our military veterans and their families as they entered our gymnasium.
Evan Vidas, a member of our Air Force JROTC, led the assembly. He then introduced the posting of the colors which was done by the BHS AFJROTC Color Guard. The students in the Color Guard in the picture below are: Pedro Rodriguez, Logan Linzman, Jeremy Gignac, Andrew Rackliff, Jessica Jewell, Lillie Nash, Ian Coleman, Tyler Mock, Dallas Getchell, and Tyler Storen. These students marched in perfect synchronicity as they posted the colors.
After Principal David Wall’s welcome, there was a recognition where the BHS AFJROTC honored MIA and POWs. The Prisoner of War (POW)/Missing in Action (MIA) table serves as a ceremonial remembrance of all the men and women who have served in the armed forces and have either been captured as a POW or categorized as MIA. It honors all five services and symbolizes the strength of those who fight for our country and rests in the traditions that are upheld today. The tradition of setting a separate table in honor of our prisoners of war and missing comrades has been in place since the end of the Vietnam War. The manner in which this table is decorated is full of special symbols to help us remember our brothers and sisters in arms. The students that participated in this remembrance were Dylan Bragdon, Ethan Griffiths, Marcus Nash, Alex Reardon, Tim Sovis.
Our keynote speakers for the event were Colonel Douglas Farnham, the 101st ARW Commander and Master Sergeant Daniel Moore, the 101st ARW Command Chief. These men spoke about the history of Veteran’s Day, the importance of freedom and the significance of making good choices and giving back to our community. You could have heard a pin drop in our gymnasium, the students were so quiet and attentive, listening to every single word.
As the 195th Army Band played a musical selection called “Bravura”, which words cannot describe, as it was beautifully arranged and delivered, I remember hearing those seated around me whispering “wow” as they were truly impressed with the talent of these musicians. At this point in the assembly, Sergeant Campbell, a high school teacher, shared the significance of the challenge coin which every veteran received during breakfast that morning. The Challenge coin is given to a person when they become part of a unit. They carry their unit coin on them to prove they are a member of that group. When challenged you must present your unit coin or face the consequences…buy a round of sodas for everyone. J Sergeant Campbell then recognized all of the Brewer High School Veterans.
As the assembly neared closing, we had the honor of hearing from Anna Jewell from the Class of 2019. She was the student essay contest winner. I then had the privilege of giving closing remarks. I spoke about honoring our heroes, remembering their achievements, courage, dedication and sacrifices, and the great pride we have in being Americans because of what these brave men and women have done for us and continue to do for us. As the 195th Army Band and BHS Band Members played the “Stein Song”, our veterans and families exited our gymnasium to another standing ovation.
The entire event was incredibly moving and I only shared some of what occurred. I am sure that my words also could not capture all of what was felt within those moments especially for our veterans. However, as an American with family members and friends that have served in our armed forces, I was once again in my life, blessed. I was proud to be in the presence of these great American Veterans.
I want to also make sure I thank the following:
Student Council: Noah Umel, Lana Sabbagh, Annie Jewell, Maria Maxsimic, Jennah Geiser, Jacob Cote, Cameran Oxley, Collin Rhoads-Doyle, Connor Roope, Brian Howard, Rose McLaughlin, Caleb LaPlante, Hayley Roy, Sarah Maxsimic, Cameron Wood, Alex Stroup, Eric Seekins, Kyle St. Thomas, Abby McCarthy, Ally Chapman, Ashley Clukey, Madison Oxley, Jamison Rhoads-Doyle, Oisin Biswas, Reed Davis,
Student Council Advisors: Breanne Pelletier and Sergeant Anthony Campbell
The 195th Army Band, CW3 Brady Harris and Select Members of Brewer High School Band
Brewer High School Administration
Brewer High School Food Services
Brewer High School AFJROTC
Anna Jewell, BHS Class of 2019
Our Guess Speakers: Col. Douglas Farnham and CMSgt, Daniel Moore
Our students, teachers, and staff
And Most of All … Our Veterans, their Families and those that continue to serve and protect our freedoms.