KITTERY, Maine ó Friday's veterans assembly at Traip Academy featured a U.S. Coast Guard commanding officer, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard's color guard and a 101-year-old veteran who still mows his own lawn.
Students, staff and community members gathered in the gymnasium to not only pay tribute to the immeasurable service given by veterans and active service members, but also to recognize Kittery's rich military history, and the hand its played in welcoming military families. The shipyard is more than 200 years old.
Members of Traip Academy's student council read aloud the names of servicemen and women connected to people in the room. The band played the national anthem and a version of "Goin' Home," a fallen soldier tribute.†
John Harker, commanding officer of U.S. Coast Guard station Portsmouth Harbor, said the town of Kittery has the highest percentage of military dependents in the state of Maine.†
"Thank you for being so welcoming to these (military) students who live a lifestyle thatís a bit different from yours," he said. "Kittery and Traip Academy is one of the staple places I recommend to people because of the strong community and support you give. The military life of moving around can be extremely difficult, so having that community support is imperative."
Harker told students the Coast Guard is the smallest of the five armed services, and is even smaller than the New York City Police Department. Yet, it does mighty things, like search and rescue, law enforcement and hurricane response.
"(Veterans) are what makes our country so special and unique," he said. "They are heroes. They show us what true dedication, sacrifice and courage is."
Harker asked for attendees to "please, please respect (veterans') service." "Continue to support, embrace and recognize them," he said.
The Rev. Brian Gruhn of the First Congregational Church of Kittery Point held a moment of silence and asked students to think about their own public service; how they can serve each other and their communities.
"These are folks who sacrifice a lot, over and over," Gruhn said, noting loss of time with family and freedom to choose where they live.
Traip senior Leneah Herrin challenged her fellow students to not just thank veterans and active military on Veterans Day, once a year. "Every morning when we stand up and place our hands over our hearts to pledge allegiance to America, think of all of our military and our veterans," she said. "Itís because of our veterans who fought for our country that we can stand and we can pledge allegiance to America."
Two local World War II veterans,†William Wheeler and Malcolm Foss, both of Kittery, were in attendance Friday. They sat next to each other.
Wheeler, 92, served in the Navy in the South Pacific from 1944-46. "I think it's wonderful," Wheeler said of Friday's recognition.
Foss, 101, served in the Army's 101st Signal Radio Intelligence Company, based out of Hawaii. Foss said people called him a "spy," because it was his job to monitor Japanese radio.
"I think this is nice to remember all of the veterans," Foss said. "I lost my brother Harold in the war. He was killed in Germany."