By Liz Premo, Editorial Assistant
Atlantic News, Thursday, November 16, 2000
[The following article is courtesy of the Atlantic News]
HAMPTON —- Seacoast area veterans were honored and the national Veterans' Day holiday was fittingly observed, last Thursday during Hampton Academy Junior High School's annual Veterans' Day assembly.
Organized by HAJH music teacher Sheila Nudd and members of the student council, the assembly was held in the school's Eastman Gym. Students in grades 6-8 and HAJh stafF joined a generous number of local veterans who have, observed Nudd, "served their nation and their town with dignity honor and fierce devotion."
Displayed on the stage across from the podium was an antique console radio, over which a banner was draped, with a white center surrounded by a red border. The banner, which was made during World War II when the school was known as Hampton Academy, has two stars on the field of white: a large blue star with the number of Hampton Academy alumni who went to war (229), and a smaller gold star, with the number of the school's graduates (10) who did not return from battle.
Following opening remarks, the presentation of colors was performed by the Winnacunnet High School Marine Junior ROTC color guard. Veteran and Hampton Academy graduate John Holman (Class of 1947) led tHe Pledge of Allegiance, with Past Chaplain of the American Legion, John MacInnes offering the invocation. Those assembled joined in the singing of Irving Berlin's God Bless America after an opening solo performed by HAJH student Maria Martinez.
Two other songs -— Ed McCurdy's The Strangest Dream and Sir Cecil Spring-Rice's I Vow To Thee My Country -- were also part of the program. The three were selected because, as HAJH student Alison Cusano explained to the audience, they reflected events from, in turn, World War II, the war in VietNam, and the Civil War.
Three guest speakers offered remarks and remembrances during their turns at the podium. Jack Lessard, a World War II veteran, told those gathered that he was "very proud to be in Hampton, and very proud to be invited here today" Taking time to remember his fellow veterans, Lessard shared how Hampton businessman Louis Marelli sent "care packages" during the war to cheer and encourage hometown service- men like himself.
World War II veteran Ansell Palmer, a 1937 graduate of Hampton Academy, told his audience about how he joined the Navy after the war had started, maintaining and repairing Navy aircraft while stationed in Hawaii after building "big radical engines" for planes at Pratt-Whitney. Palmer also shared the story of how his sister Rita Palmer, an Army nurse, was stationed in the Philippines and became one of the first women to receive a Purple Heart after being injured when her hospital unit was bombed.
Stanwood Brown, a Hampton resident for 75 years, told students that "we're not heroes or super-human beings -— we were students like you" when he was a junior at Hampton Academy back in December 1941. Indicating the antique radio on the stage, Brown told his listeners that it was on a radio much like that one that he and his fellow students heard — live in the Eastman Gym — Franklin Delano Roosevelt's famous "Day of Infamy speech the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japan.
"I still feel a twinge of pride" for having served in the US armed forces, said Brown, who advised students, "if any of you ever serve in the military of our country, serve with pride and honor. You'll learn a lot, you'll see a lot, and you'll have a richer, more rewarding life."
HAJH Principal Kevin Moran told the group about his cousin, Ed, with whom he had grown up just a few doors downs the street from one another. Ed had been drafted to serve in the VietNam war and was killed in action in the Gulf of Tonkin along with 12 of his fellow servicemen.
"It's a personal thing to me," said Moran of observing Veterans' Day.
Taps was played by HAJH band members Ben Roesch and Marie Cushing, followed by a benediction by John Macinnes. The entire assembly stood to sing I Vow To Thee My Country, and the MJROTC color guard retired the colors to close the event.
Just before the assembly came to an end, the names of the veterans who were present were read off, including those who are on the HAJH staff and others within SAU21, including Facilities Manager Al Jackson, SAU21 Superintendent Jack Bourgoin, and Assistant Superintendent Fred Engelbach. Nudd referred to all veterans as "20th century knights of honor."
"If ever there was a group of people we should honor," said Nudd, "it is these servants of our nation who are with us today".