Honoring those who served: Essayists write ‘what a veteran means to me’

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

For the past several years, Liam Opie has taken the time to visit with veterans and intently listen to their stories of service and honor.

The LRHS junior has also volunteered time to serve breakfast to veterans and their families during special gatherings on Veterans Day.

“Whether​ ​they​ ​speak​ ​of​ ​the​ ​battlefields​ ​of​ World​ ​War​ ​Two, the​ ​mountains​ ​of​ ​Korea​ ​or​ the​ ​jungles​ ​of​ ​Vietnam,​ ​I​ ​imagine​ ​the​ sacrifice​ ​they​ ​and​ ​their comrades​ ​made.​ ​To​ hear​ ​stories​ ​from​ ​combat​ ​veterans​ ​makes​ ​me​ feel​ ​proud​ ​to​ ​know​ ​that​ ​I​ ​am sitting​ ​in​ ​the​ presence​ ​of​ ​someone​ ​who​ ​has​ ​seen​ ​the​ horrors​ ​of​ ​war​ ​and​ ​has​ ​willingly​ ​done​ ​a​ ​job that​ ​many​ ​people​ ​would​ ​never​ ​volunteer​ ​to​ ​do,” wrote Liam, whose essay was one of four read at last Thursday’s Veterans Day Assembly held at LRHS.

The annual event was organized by the Lake Region Interact Club and Lake Region Vocational Center, whose students prepared and served veterans lunch prior to the assembly held in the school gymnasium.

Interact president Lauren Jakobs welcomed veterans and students. She then read, “On​ the​ ​11th​ ​hour​ ​of​ ​the​ ​11th​ ​day​ ​of​ ​the​ ​11th​ month,​ ​the​ ​ending​ ​of​ ​hostilities​ ​was declared​ between​ ​Germany​ ​and​ ​Allied​ ​nations​ ​in​ World​ ​War​ ​I.​ ​This​ ​day​ ​was​ ​called Armistice​ Day,​ ​now​ ​known​ ​as​ ​Veterans​ ​Day.​ ​It​ ​was​ changed​ ​after​ ​the​ ​Korean​ ​War. Veterans​ Day​ ​became​ ​a​ ​federal​ ​holiday​ ​in​ ​the​ ​United​ ​States​ ​in​ ​1938.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​a​ ​day​ ​to honor​ America’s​ ​veterans​ ​for​ ​their​ ​willingness​ ​to​ serve​ ​and​ ​sacrifice​ ​for​ ​our​ ​country. These​ men​ ​and​ ​women​ ​in​ ​front​ ​of​ ​us​ ​today​ ​are​ many​ ​of​ ​the​ ​brave​ ​souls​ ​who​ ​devoted their​ lives​ ​to​ ​serve​ ​their​ ​country​ ​and​ ​protect​ ​our​ ​freedom.​ ​They​ ​deserve​ ​all​ ​the recognition​ ​in​ the​ ​world.”

This year’s assembly had a little different twist than in past programs. Rather than have a veteran as a keynote speaker, Interact Club invited students district wide to write essays on what Veterans Day means to them. Many​ ​essays were received,​ ​and the club​ ​chose four​ ​students​ ​to​ ​present​ ​their​ pieces​ ​at the assembly.

“The​ ​theme​ ​of​ ​our​ ​assembly​ ​this​ ​year​ ​is​ about​ ​students​ ​appreciating​ ​and​ ​honoring veterans​ ​for​ ​their​ ​service,” Jakobs added.

Before essays were read, LRVC law enforcement students conducted a presentation​ ​of​ ​colors​ ​and​ ​recitation​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Pledge​ ​of Allegiance, while Chandler True and Melissa Bonenfant sang the national anthem. ​ Ms.​ ​Foster​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Lake​ ​Region​ ​Band​ ​gave a​ ​rendition​ ​of​ ​Stars​ ​and Stripes​ ​Forever.

Interact Club vice president Alyvia Wilson spoke briefly about the essay program.

“We​ ​turned​ ​to​ ​the​ ​students​ ​of​ ​MSAD​ ​61, ​to​ ​deliver​ ​words​ ​of​ ​thanks​ ​to​ ​the​ ​men and​ ​women​ ​who​ ​sacrificed​ ​so​ ​much​ ​for​ ​our​ ​nation​ ​in​ ​the​ ​form​ ​of​ ​an​ ​essay​ ​or poem.​ ​Before​ ​writing​ ​and​ ​creating​ ​thank​ ​you​ ​cards,​ ​the​ ​members​ ​of​ ​the Interact​ ​Club​ ​scheduled​ ​visits​ ​to​ ​the​ ​elementary​ ​schools.​ ​This​ ​helped​ ​students​ ​build​ ​a​ ​better​ ​understanding​ ​of​ ​why​ ​we​ ​celebrate​ ​today.​ We​ ​​read books discussing what a ‘veteran’ is and what their ‘service’ really means. We hope you (veterans) found the cards and artwork to be reflection of the heartfelt appreciation you all deserve,” Wilson said.

Liam Opie

LRHS junior

Liam Opie

​​Ever​ ​since​ ​I​ ​was​ ​young,​ ​those​ ​who​ ​have​ served​ ​our​ ​country​ ​have​ ​always​ ​meant​ ​a​ ​lot​ to​ ​me.​ ​At the​ ​age​ ​of​ six,​ ​I​ ​remember​ ​my​ father​ ​showing​ ​me​ ​photographs​ ​of​ ​family,​ donned​ ​in​ ​their​ ​military uniforms.​ I​remember​ ​my​ ​father​ ​and​ ​my​ ​uncle​ explaining​ ​to​ ​me​ ​that​ ​these​ ​men,​ ​just​ ​like​ ​the​​men and​ ​women​ ​of​ ​today,​ served​ ​their​ country​ ​and​ ​fought​ ​for​ ​what​ ​they​ ​believed​ in.​ ​I​ ​heard​ ​stories​ ​of my​ ​direct​ ​ancestors​ who​ ​served​ in​ ​the​ ​American​ ​Revolutionary​ War.​ ​They​ ​spoke​ ​of​ ​Uncle Robert​ ​Edward​ Lee​ ​and​ ​the​ ​many​ ​grandfathers​ and​ ​uncles​ ​in​ our​ ​family​ ​who​ ​gave​ ​up​ ​everything to​ ​serve​ the​ ​South​ ​in​ ​the​ ​four​ ​long​ ​years​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Civil​ War.​ I​ ​have​ ​learned​ ​of​ ​the​ ​many​ ​Union uncles​ ​and​ ​grandfathers,​ ​from​ ​the​ ​ages​ ​of​ ​16​ ​to​ ​64,​ ​that​ ​fought​ ​for​ ​the​ Union​ ​and​ ​risked everything.​ ​They​ ​told​ ​me​ ​of​ ​my​ ​great​ grandfather​ ​Opie,​ ​who​ ​served​ ​30​ ​years​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Navy​ and served​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Second​ ​World​ ​War.​ The​ ​thought​ ​of​ ​all​ ​these​ ​ancestors​ ​marching​ to​ ​war,​ ​on​ ​horse, on​ ​foot​ or​ ​on​ ​ships,​ developed​ ​within​ ​me​ ​a​ ​great​ ​sense​ ​of​ ​pride​ and​ ​honor.

For​ ​the​ ​past​ ​few​ ​years,​ ​I​ ​have​ ​visited​ ​many​ assisted​ ​living​ ​homes​ ​and​ ​the​ ​homes​ ​of​ veterans​ ​to hear​ ​their​ stories​ ​and​ ​to​ ​thank​ them.​ ​I​ ​have​ ​helped​ ​to​ ​serve​ ​breakfast​ ​to​ these​ ​fine​ ​men​ ​and women​ ​every​ ​veterans​ day, ​as​ ​well.​ Whether​ ​they​ ​speak​ ​of​ ​the​ battlefields​ ​of​ ​World​ ​War​ ​II, the​ ​mountains​ ​of​ ​Korea​ ​or​ ​the​ ​jungles​ of​ ​Vietnam,​ ​I​ imagine​ ​the​ ​sacrifice​ ​they​ ​and​ ​their comrades​ ​made.​ ​To​ ​hear​ ​stories​ ​from​ combat​ ​veterans​ makes​ ​me​ ​feel​ ​proud​ ​to​ know​ ​that​ ​I​ ​am sitting​ ​in​ ​the​ ​presence​ ​of​ someone​ ​who​ ​has​ ​seen​ ​the​ ​horrors​ ​of​ ​war​and​ ​has​ ​willingly​ ​done​ ​a​ ​job that​ ​many​ people​ ​would​ ​never​ ​volunteer​ ​to​ ​do.

As​ ​of​ ​the​ ​time​ ​that​ ​I​ ​am​ ​finishing​ ​this​ ​piece,​ I​ ​will​ ​be​ ​swearing​ ​in​ ​to​ ​join​ ​the​ ​Army​ Reserves​ ​on Oct.​ ​21,​ 2017.​ ​I,​ ​like​ ​my​ grandfathers,​ ​grandmother,​ ​aunts​ ​and​ ​uncles​ before​ ​me,​ ​will​ ​take the​ ​same​ ​oath​ ​of​enlistment.​ ​This​ ​summer,​ ​I​ ​will​ ​be​ ​going​ ​to​ basic​ ​training​ ​and​ ​upon​ ​completion, I​ ​will​ wear​ ​the​ ​Army’s​ uniform.​ ​After​ ​high​ ​school,​ I​ ​hope​ ​to​ ​get​ ​a​ ​commission​ ​as​ ​an​ ​officer​ ​and to​ ​make​ ​a​ ​career​ ​out​ ​of​ ​serving​ ​my​ country.​ I​ ​have​ ​thought​ ​of​ ​what​ ​the​ ​future​ ​will​ ​hold​ in​ ​regards to​ ​this​ ​choice​ ​that​ ​I​ ​have​ ​made.​ Recently,​ ​I​ have​ ​also​ ​thought​ ​of​ ​one​ question​ ​that​ ​I​ ​know​ ​some veterans​ ​have​ considered​ ​before.​ ​That​ ​is,​ ​what​ ​will​ ​my​service​ ​mean​ ​to​ ​my​ ​friends,​ ​my​ ​children and​ grandchildren​ ​and​ ​what​ ​will​ ​I,​ ​as​ ​a​ serviceman,​ ​mean​ ​to​ ​them?

Wilson Secord

Wilson Secord

LRMS eighth grader

Dear Veteran,

I am a 13-year-old student of Lake Region Middle School. I thank you for your service and sacrifice for this great nation of ours. I went to Washington, D.C. a couple years ago and I had insisted that we see three things — Arlington National Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Memorial, and the World War II Memorial. These three monuments were some of the most important things in existence to me.

Enough about me. What branch of the military were you in when you served? What rank were you? How long did you serve? In case no one has told you this, your impact on this country is mind-bogglingly huge. What you did and the sacrifices you made are the reason that we have the privilege to live in this amazing country. I respect the flag and this country just as much as I respect you and the impact you have created on this country.

It has been a pleasure talking with you. I hope you have a wonderful day and I hope I have lifted your spirits at least a little. My highest respects go out to you, sir.

Ronan Davis,

Ronan Davis

Fourth grader

Sebago Elementary

This​ ​past​ ​Memorial​ ​Day,​ ​I​ ​was​ ​standing​ ​by​ the​ ​side​ ​of the​ ​road​ ​watching​ ​a​ ​parade.​ ​​​It​ was​ ​a​ ​special​ ​parade because​ ​we​ ​were​ remembering​ ​veterans​ ​of​ ​wars. Veterans​ ​are​ important​ ​for​ ​many​ ​reasons.​ They​ ​protect our​ country,​ ​they​ ​help​ ​people,​ ​and​ ​do​ ​things​ most​ ​people wouldn’t​ ​try.​ ​​ ​I​ ​looked​ ​at​ ​the​ older​ ​people​ ​walking​ ​in​ their uniforms​ ​and​ thought​ ​of​ ​my​ ​grandfather.

Even​ ​though​ ​he​ ​isn’t​ ​alive​ ​any​ longer​, ​I​ ​still​ ​remember him​ ​for​ ​lots​ ​of​ ​reasons.​ My​ grandfather​ ​was​ ​a​ ​door gunner​ ​in​ ​Vietnam.​ ​​​I​ ​​heard​ ​stories​ ​for​ ​years​ ​from​ ​my mom​ ​and​ dad. They​ ​would​ ​talk​ ​about​ ​my​ ​grandfather​ and the​ ​things​ ​he​ ​did.

​I​ ​ ​never​ ​got​ ​to​ ​see​ ​his​ ​uniform. He​ ​got​ ​rid​ ​of​ it because​ ​he​ ​did​ ​not​ ​want​ ​to​ ​remember​ ​all​ the​ ​sad​ ​times​ ​he had​​ in​​ the ​​war.​​​​ He​​ was​​ a​​wonderful ​​person ​​so ​​I​​ am​ sure he​ ​had​ friends,​ ​but​ ​I’ve​ ​never​ ​met​ ​them.​ With​ ​him​ being​ ​a veteran,​ ​I​ ​am​ ​so​ ​proud​ ​of​ ​the​ ​stories​ I​ ​hear.​ ​Some​ ​were funny,​ ​some​ ​were​ ​sad,​ and​ ​most​ ​were​ ​brave.

As​ ​I​ ​continued​ ​to​ ​watch​ ​the​ ​parade,​ ​I​ ​saw​ ​a​ couple​ ​of cars​ ​that​ ​went​ ​by​ ​urging​ ​the​ spectators​ ​to​ ​join​ ​the​ ​Armed Forces.​ ​It​ reminded​ ​me​ ​of​ ​my​ ​grandfather.​ He​ ​joined​ right after​ ​high​ ​school.​ ​He​ ​went​ ​right​ ​to​ ​Fort​ ​Dix​ ​to​ ​train.

A​ ​little​ ​later​ ​in​ ​the​ parade​, ​two​ ​men​ ​on​ ​each​ side​ ​came with​ ​baskets​ ​asking​ ​for​ ​money.​ They​ ​were​ ​asking​ ​for money​ ​for​ ​a​ ​charity​ that​ ​helps​ ​homeless​ ​veterans.​ Then,​ ​a van​ pulled​​ up​​ and ​​four ​​older​​ gentlemen​​ came ​​out​​of ​​the car.​​ They ​w​ere​​ in​​ Air ​​Force ​​uniforms. When​​ they​​ walked out​ ​of​ ​the​ ​van,​ ​I​ ​felt​ honored​ ​to​ ​have​ ​them​ ​come​ ​over.​ I had​ never​ ​met​ ​any​ Air​ ​Force​ ​soldiers​ ​before.

This​ ​essay​ ​is​ ​about​ ​saying​ ​“thank​ ​you”​ ​to​ the​ ​veterans. We salute​ ​you​ ​for​ ​all​ ​you​ ​have​ done​ ​to​ ​help​ ​our​ ​country​ ​and most​ importantly​ ​for​ ​my​ ​freedom.

Madison Olsen

Madison Olsen

Third grader

Sebago Elementary

Soldier. A​ ​loved​ ​family​ ​member.​ ​A​ ​life saver.​ ​A​ ​​ ​person​ ​that​ ​gives​ ​me​ ​the freedom​ for​ ​me​ ​to​ ​make​ ​a​ ​wonderful​ ​decision​ ​if​ ​I​ would​ ​like​ ​to.​ ​A​ ​veteran means​ ​to​ ​me​ ​a​ loved​ ​one​​.​ ​An​ ​excellent ​​ ​man​ ​or​ ​woman​ ​who​ is​ ​saving the​ ​world. I​ ​am​ ​so​ ​lucky​ ​I​ ​have​ ​the​ best​ ​veterans​ ​in​ ​the​ ​whole​ ​world.​ ​You mean​ a​ ​lot​ ​to​ ​me. You​ ​mean​ ​as​ ​much​ ​as​ ​the​ universe​ ​and​ ​I​ ​hope​ ​you​ ​know that.

You​ ​really​ ​must​ ​love​ ​this​ ​country​ ​to​ ​do​ ​that​ for​ ​us.​ ​You​ ​fight​ ​for​ ​your​ ​lives for​ t​he​ people​ ​in​ ​the​ ​world.​ ​A​ veteran​ ​means​ ​to​ ​me​ a​ ​fighter.​ ​You​ ​veterans mean​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​to​ ​my​ country​ and​ ​that’s​ ​why​ ​veterans​ ​are​ awesome. Veterans​ ​are​ ​extraordinary​ ​and​ super​ ​brave.​ ​A​ ​veteran​ ​helps​ ​this​ ​country and​ ​I​ ​hope​ ​you​ ​know​ that​ ​you​ ​are​ ​that​ awesome​ ​no​ ​matter​ ​who​ ​you are​ ​and​ ​how​ you​ ​look.​ ​I​ ​had​ ​a​ ​grandfather​ ​that​ ​was​ ​a​ veteran. He​ ​sat​ ​in the​ ​jungle. He​ ​watched.​ He​ ​doesn’t​ ​​ ​wear​ ​the​ ​camouflage,​ ​he​ ​wore​ clothes to​ ​blend​ ​in​ ​with​ ​the​ ​jungle.​ ​Now​, ​he​ doesn’t​ ​do​ ​it​ ​any​ ​more.

A​ ​veteran​ ​means​ ​a​ ​person​ ​with​ ​lots​ ​of​ courage​ ​and​ ​faith.​ ​You​ ​guys​ ​and girls​ ​have​ ​a​ very​ ​strong​ ​heart​ ​to​ ​be​ doing​ ​this.​ ​You​ ​guys​ mean​ ​freedom​ ​and sacrifice.​ You​ ​guys​ protect​ ​our​ ​lives.​ ​My​ ​cousin​ ​wants​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ nurse​ ​for​ ​you guys​ ​and​ ​girls.​ ​That’s​​ ​why​ America​ ​should​ ​respect​ ​you​ ​and​ ​thank​ ​you.​ You help​ ​our​ ​lives.​You​ ​guys​ ​protect​ ​us.​ You​ ​let​ ​us​ ​follow​ ​our​ ​dreams.​ ​You​ ​are​ ​a source​ ​of​ ​inspiration.​ ​You​ ​​ ​are​ ​fighting​ ​off​bombs​ ​and​ ​rockets​ ​and​ ​these​ ​big ships.​ Thank​ ​you​ ​for​ ​that.​ ​You​ ​have​ ​been​ ​through​ so​ ​many​ ​wars.​ ​You​ ​help us​ ​be​ ​safe.​ ​You​ stand​ ​up​ ​for​ ​us.​ ​You​ ​help​ ​us​ ​live​ ​our​ ​lives.​ The​ ​most important​ ​thing​ ​is​ ​that​ ​you​ ​are​ ​being​ you, that’s​ ​all​ ​that​ ​matters.​ ​

Many​ ​of​ ​you probably​ ​had​ ​some​ ​losses​ ​and​ that’s​ ​sad,​ ​but​ ​keep​ ​trying​ ​as​ ​hard​ ​as​ ​you can. Veterans​ ​are​ ​awesome​ ​in​ ​any​ ​shape​ ​or​ ​form​ ​or​ ​any​ ​look​ ​or​ ​style. So thank​ ​you​ ​for​ saving​ ​our​ ​county.​ ​That’s​ ​what​ ​a​ ​veteran​ means​ ​to​ ​me.

Closing out the assembly was a well-choreographed dance — a personal tribute to the guests of honor — by senior ​Emily​ ​St.​ ​John​ ​and the​ ​playing​ of Taps by​ ​junior Matthew​ ​Mayo​ ​and​ ​sophomore​ ​Thomas Kolofsky, who ​played ​the​ ​echo.

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