East Lyme Middle School students honor veterans

Coast Guard Academy Cadet third class James Zittel, right, and fellow veterans and service members listen to the East Lyme Middle School band, comprising students in fifth to eighth grades, perform 'America the Beautiful' during a Veterans Day ceremony in the school's gymnasium Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Zittel is from Buffalo, N.Y.  (Tim Martin/The Day)
Coast Guard Academy Cadet third class James Zittel, right, and fellow veterans and service members listen to the East Lyme Middle School band, comprising students in fifth to eighth grades, perform "America the Beautiful" during a Veterans Day ceremony in the school's gymnasium Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Zittel is from Buffalo, N.Y. (Tim Martin/The Day)

East Lyme — East Lyme Middle School students on Friday reflected on the area residents who have served in the military throughout the nation's history and honored veterans and the service members who currently are serving across the country and the world.

"Our local residents have served with pride and dedication," eighth-grade student Ethan Gillespie said during an all-school, student-led assembly in the middle school's gymnasium on Friday afternoon.

The Veterans Day ceremony is an annual tradition at East Lyme Middle School, and all the schools in the district take part in honoring veterans, said Collin McIvor, a social studies teacher who helped organize the event. Earlier in the day, about 40 veterans, service members and Coast Guard Academy cadets spoke to the middle school students about their experiences and had lunch at the school.

"On behalf of the students of East Lyme Middle School, we would like to thank you for your service and thank you for being our guests today," eighth-grade student Jennie Sherwood said to the local veterans during the ceremony.

Members of the band and orchestra performed "America the Beautiful" and the national anthem, and attendees observed a moment of silence.

Leading up to Veterans Day, seventh- and eighth-grade students discussed Veterans Day in their language arts and social studies classes. Four eighth-grade students shared their essays and poems during the ceremony.

Mariah Riley read a poem she wrote about a time when she was younger and her father — who attended the ceremony — was on deployment in the Navy.

".... My arms were not long but I hope my hugs reached your heart," she said. "I'm appreciative of your service and all of your heart."

Tenkyi Sermo and Abigail Jorgensen recited poems about the meaning of Veterans Day.

"For the people who risked their lives, we give you the greatest honor as you arrive," Sermo said.

"Let's take a moment to remember and care for those who have fought for and fight for us every day," Jorgensen said.

Noelle Avena told the story of her grandfather, a World War II veteran, and spoke about the importance of thanking veterans.

"To me, Veterans Day is a time to think about all the veterans in our everyday life, especially those suffering in silence," she said.

Attendees applauded the veterans and active duty service members.

"Many of these active duty service members are parents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors and friends of East Lyme Middle School students," said Blake Harris, an eighth-grade student. "We thank them for their service and await their safe return home."

"As we gather here today, members of our community are on the ground, in the air, at sea and along our coast, making sure our country and our world is a safer and a fairer place," he added. "We owe our security to their hard work and sacrifice."

McIvor said the whole school community pitched in to make the event a reality. He said students helped, for example, by making artwork, setting up tables for the luncheon, or giving up their lunchtime to practice performing for the assembly.

During the morning panels, students asked the guests questions.

When a student asked if it was a difficult decision to decide to serve, Elizabeth Miller, a third class cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, said she always wanted to serve and whenever she felt nervous before committing to the service, she reminded herself of the bigger picture.

"I'm obviously very happy that I stuck with it and I'm here today," she said.

Joe Barry, an East Lyme native who served as an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division in the U.S. Army, told students that he got his GED while stationed in Okinawa and left them with the message to "never give up." He told them that school is key for life, and emphasized that if they need help, they should ask for it. 

k.drelich@theday.com

Noah Krishnasami, 13, an eighth-grade student at East Lyme Middle School, plays the saxophone with fellow  band members during a  Veterans Day ceremony in the school's gymnasium Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. The band comprises students in the fifth through eighth grades. (Tim Martin/The Day)
Noah Krishnasami, 13, an eighth-grade student at East Lyme Middle School, plays the saxophone with fellow band members during a Veterans Day ceremony in the school's gymnasium Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. The band comprises students in the fifth through eighth grades. (Tim Martin/The Day)

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