LMS Memorial Day Ceremony

June 3, 2016


by Len Lathrop

It is 1:20 p.m., Friday, May 27, three days before Memorial Day; the place – Litchfield Middle School.  From an almost empty gymnasium at 1:10 p.m., the bleachers are now full, and, yes, the entire student population files into the bleachers on one side of the court.  There is noise, lots of it.  The question is, do these students from grades five to grade eight understand “Memorial Day?”

Principal Tom Lecklider welcomes everyone, the President of the Student Council is called to the microphone to lead the gathered body in the Pledge of Allegiance. You can hear many voices together. The eighth grade band plays the National Anthem.

Four students, one from each grade, go to the podium and each read a stanza of the poem, “In Flanders Field,“ written in May 1915 by John McCrae, was read by Damien Geddes-Milano (eighth grade), Molly Dyer (fifth grade), Jaden Corbeil (sixth grade) and Travis Tucker (seventh grade).

The “Marches of the Armed Forces” was offered to the students by the 8th Grade Band under the direction of Mrs. Carolyn Leite.  The gymnasium vibrates and the students listen. Could they recognize the different branches of our military?  Surely, many could.

Teachers spoke about Memorial Day to their pupils.  Mrs. Thayer introduced the next offering from the band, it was “Elegy for the U.S.S. Arizona.”

“On Dec. 7, 1945, the USS Arizona sank during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Among the many American sailors lost, were the 22 musicians attached to the Arizona.  Larry MacTaggart’s ‘Elegy’ pays tribute to all those lost on the Arizona and salutes the sailors who have carried the Navy banner proudly to this day.  Into the main theme, MacTaggart had woven the familiar “Navy Hymn” and “Taps.”

The student band performed this memorial piece flawlessly for their classmates and set the tone for Mr. Sulzen and Mrs. Corbeil to speak about “Freedom is Not Free,” which was followed by “Taps,” sounded by Joshua York and Avery Simonds.

Principal Lecklider closed the service with remarks speaking about the decision to serve ones country, and putting country before self. Using the story of Patrick Daniel Tillman (Nov. 6, 1976-April 22, 2004), an American football player who left his professional sporting career and enlisted in the United States Army in June 2002 in the aftermath of the Sept. 11th attacks, who left professional football to enter the Army and then gave his life  for his nation.

Leckilder had the students’ attention and left most thinking of those who have served on the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.