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Epping High School student Sawyer Begin, 17, plays Taps during a Veterans' Day ceremony at Epping Elementary School Friday. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)

Epping students hear Veterans Day message

EPPING - Standing in front of the student body at Epping Elementary School, Principal Mark Vallone explained to students how each year the school holds two "serious" ceremonies - one marking Veterans Day, the other Memorial Day.

"This one is very special because it's about the people who protect us," Vallone told the students, who had gathered Friday for the school's annual Veterans Day ceremony.

The students seemed to hear the message, which was reinforced by Lt. Dennis Kee of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Kee, 36, was the guest speaker. He told students not to take their freedoms for granted.

Kee said he had three points to drive home the meaning of the day to the young students.

"One, what the flag stands for. Two, the fact that it's there because of the people that went before us, both civilian and military. And three, be proud of who you are, specifically an American, no matter your religion, color, creed, what have you. You are an American and just be proud and stand up next to those who wouldn't stand up and encourage them to say the same thing," said Kee, a Georgia native now living in York, Maine.

Fifth-grade student Joseph Furey, 11, said he understood the message behind Veterans Day and hoped the ceremony would help other students also understand.

"I feel bad for the ones who died. These are our troops fighting for our country and serving us," said Furey, student council president.

The day has special meaning for Laura Duguie, 10, who said her father and some of her uncles served in the Army.

"I think the day is really more about the people who are serving and who have served," the fifth-grader said.

The ceremony began with students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and ended with two Epping High School students playing Taps in the full gymnasium.

Kee hopes just as many people turn out for other observances held on Veterans Day around the state.

"I think sometimes we miss the people that went before us. Sometimes we don't understand the aging population that fought in World War II and the conflicts after it. They're still out there, and they probably have some of the best stories ever, and we need to keep those guys and those ladies in our minds," he said.

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Jason Schreiber may be reached at


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