Learning from ‘The American Veteran’

November 13, 2015


‘The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.’  Abraham Lincoln


by Doug Robinson

The day began with a child and a veteran.  That veteran could have been mom, dad, grandpa, and even grandma.  Together, they began their day holding hands and breaking bread at the Litchfield Middle School.

A simple breakfast of sausages, bread, and juice and eggs was prepared for them as they took their seats.  They sat together and continued to share.  Warm hugs, watching the prepared video submissions from the little ones of their veteran heroes, and telling stories of a time gone by.

Personal placemats shouted out ‘Thank You’ in the colors of the red, white, and blue.  Patriotic napkins supported the plastic utensils, and the tables were draped in blue.

Tech Sgt. Michael Tower’s photo was now being projected on the large screen.  His photo has been submitted by LMS student Sammy Ford.  Sgt. Tower is now serving in Afghanistan.  Now, everyone knows about young Sammy’s uncle and how proud Sammy is of his uncle.

The common thread for the five dozen veterans that accompanied their middle school student to school was the celebration prepared for them, in their honor.

The gym became a sea of cheering students, applauding for their heroes who sat before them as the Veterans Day Ceremony began.  Again, like breakfast, the students sat with their veteran heroes.  Side by side, brown metal chairs that faced the bleachers were now filled with every student, faculty and staff member of LMS.

The single podium stood alone in the middle of the gym.  Opening remarks by Principal Tom Lecklider spoke of welcome, of special guests, and most importantly he stated, “We are joined by the veterans in our midst in our Litchfield community including a few veterans on staff at Litchfield Middle School, including Christine Rooney.”

He continued, “I would like to thank you on behalf of our Litchfield Middle School community for your service of and wish you blessings as you prepare to serve in the future.  The United States is a great nation.  The freedom we have is not free.  We recognize that all veterans have given something of themselves to this country, and some have given all-laying down their lives to defend the freedoms we hold so dear.  Our theme today is ‘The American Veteran.’”

Standing, hats off, saluting, and hands crossing our hearts became the signs of respect and recognition as the eighth grade band played the national anthem.

Winning poet, sixth grade student Meredith Spotts wrote of, “Our flag …, never lose, … and red white and blue” as she read her essay to the entire school body.

To young Paige, U.S. Army 1st Sgt. /Operations NCO Tom Groulx is known simply as “dad.”  Dressed in his daily wear of military fatigues, he approached the podium to address the 1,220 eyes now staring at him.

“I am not usually nervous when I speak in front of people, but today, today is emotional for me.  I get caught up and today means a lot.  To be a veteran, at least to us who are up here, is not special.  We all felt a calling, and only a small percent of people do this.”

With a cracking voice of humility and care, he continued to explain, “It is hard for me to put into words.  Great men have come before me and have sacrificed.  When I hear the national anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance, I am humbled.  When I go shopping, I usually do it on my way home from work and this is what I wear to work.  In the store, people come up and thank me.  I have been to Afghanistan, Iraq, and places where people do not know what it is like to walk down the street without fear.  Something is bigger than all of us, and that is freedom.

“Please go thank your teacher, thank your policeman, thank your fireman, and remember the service they give to you.  This is what makes America so great.”