CMHS Honors Veterans with Respectful Presentation

The veterans of the St. Croix Valley were celebrated as a group on Friday, November 9th by the AP English class of Calais High School. (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson

 

The Calais Middle-High School cafeteria was filled to capacity on Friday, November 9th as veterans and their families joined the school community for the annual AP English class’s presentation honoring those who have served in the armed forces. Veterans in attendance were clearly moved by the consideration offered to them from the youth that coordinated the presentation and those that watched the proceedings in respectful silence.

The AP English class, under the guidance of Lori Ellis, organizes the event each year to remind the community of the meaning of Veterans Day as well as to personally honor veterans from the area. One of the primary focuses of the presentation is to emphasize that Veterans Day is not just a day off from school or work but a day in which those individuals who have sacrificed in service to the country are rightfully remembered. Beyond that, the presenting students urged those in attendance to recognize that Veterans Day should not be the only time that veterans are honored. “Our veterans should always be at the forefront of our minds,” shared student Kale Sapiel.

The United Veterans Honor Guard – representing every branch of service – brought in the colors in full regalia, drawing the complete attention of each youth in the audience. From there, the CMHS Band launched into an exuberant rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, it being the first of three pieces performed with skill and enthusiasm under Christine Proefrock. The chorus similarly provided a moving performance of “We Honor You,” bringing tears to the corners of many eyes.

Faculty member and veteran Jim Randall gave the opening address, referencing how veterans were a relatively small group – ten percent of the population – but that they have deep connections with one another and with their communities. “It means a lot. It’s a bond that we share, and when we see it, it means a lot.”

Randall said he’s been a part of many groups throughout his life, “but being a veteran is unlike any other group I’ve been with.” He said that during his service he served alongside people of every race, creed and background, and even though they came from different places, after serving in the military, “We will always be one.” Every veteran, Randall said, put aside their personal goals for the greater good of the country.

America’s Little White Table was performed by Abby Downing, Twyla Smiley, and Ivy McLellan, recounting a symbolic ceremony that honors all armed forces – but particularly the ones lost in battle. “It was just a little white table. But it felt as big as America,” Downing read.

A slideshow containing photos of local veterans was played, with video interviews from four area veterans interspersed throughout. The featured veterans were John “Buck” Wartman, Steven Oliver, Darrin McLellan, and Wesley Comeau.

Each spoke about what drew them into the armed forces. For Wartman, as a self-described troubled youth, he felt it was his only option; McLellan felt it was a good fit; Oliver joined because he was uncertain about his future path; and Comeau joined to serve his country. In every case, they learned valuable lessons – from discipline to learning how to take care of themselves and others to learn to love America. “If you’re looking for something to fight for, you should fight for your country,” Oliver suggested. McLellan spoke to the lessons of unity and brotherhood imparted by the military. “Never a leave a man behind,” he summarized. “If you’re running in formation, put the slow runners up front – and when they start to slow down, you help them keep up.”

Veteran and musician Sam Coltart provided the appropriate themes for each branch of service and called the veterans from those branches to stand and be recognized with a gift of a red rose from the AP class.

 

By the end of the presentation, the students had taken important steps toward fulfilling the advice displayed throughout the event on the center of the stage – words from our 35thPresident, John F. Kennedy, Jr. “As we express gratitude we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”