Salem middle school students lauded for honoring veterans
SALEM - For the students at Woodbury Middle School, reading about military veterans in their history books wasn't enough.
On Friday morning the school's sixth graders had the chance to show their gratitude in person, having invited several hundred of the area's uniformed men and women to a special Veterans Day breakfast.
It was a morning of tunes and heartfelt praise as students, staff members and legislators equally honored the soldiers of past and present.
"In my opinion, I think veterans should be honored not just on Veterans Day, but everyday," student Celia DeBrocke wrote in her essay, which she read to veterans seated before her. "If it weren't for you, we wouldn't have a happy life like we do right now."
Her sentiments echoed those of her peers.
"One day we'll be old enough to realize how lucky we all are to have very important people like you," sixth grader Michelle Korbani said.
"Our freedom is so important to us," classmate Kaylee Weston added. "Without freedom we couldn't vote and our land may be taken over. That wouldn't be so great."
"Our veterans will always be America's pride," wrote young essayist, Emma Stanganelli. "They have fought many battles and have left their life to serve others' lives. They are the ones who have protected America."
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and NH Gov. John Lynch sat in the audience, shaking hands with the veterans and lauding the schoolchildren for their thoughtfulness.
Sen. Ayotte commended the school on its annual veterans event: one she said should serve as an example of how other schools could appreciate veterans. "We have the best military in the world: they do it very quietly and they don't ask for recognition," she added. "When you see someone in uniform, please go up to them and thank them. Every day we need to keep them in our hearts."
Nearing the end of his final term as governor, Lynch said he's been impressed by the annual veterans event, which he's attended every year. "You all do such a fine job of setting the tone for Veterans Day week," he told the children. "Men and women across our nation answered a call: they asked for very little in return, but this is why we need to pause today."
Air Force veteran Jan Radowicz, now an associate principal at Salem High School, shared her experiences gathered over the seven years spent in the service. At one point, in her career, she was the sole female officer in her unit. "I did find that I'm not the same person I had been before the military," Radowicz said. "It taught me to be a strong public speaker and writer. I became an advocate for women."
"I met a lot of people from a lot of cultures," she added. "It allowed me to look at problems from different viewpoints."
Wearing his combat fatigues, Adjutant General William Reddel urged others to remember those who continue to serve, including the Granite State National Guard troops that will soon deploy to the Middle East.
"With everything going on, the war has become background noise," Reddel said. "Why do we wear these uniforms? We wear them for all of you," he continued, motioning to the sea of young faces inside the gymnasium.
"If you look at all the warriors in this room, that's what they did and that's what they continue to fight for," he added.