The Chenery Middle School Wind Band played patriotic music, the chorus sang the “National Anthem” and several students made speeches and recited poems to their classmates and the two dozen men – many slowed with age – sitting on chairs on the side of the stage.
They were an array of armed forces veterans from Belmont and surrounding communities, coming to the school as the living embodiment of the commitment and sacrifice they gave to the country.
The school-wide assembly, held on Monday, Nov. 10 in the Chenery auditorium, is an annual commemoration of the service of all veterans and those currently in uniform.
“I want to thank all of you for showing up today because twice a year, we feel like rock stars,” said Kip Gaudet, commander of Belmont’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post on Trapelo Road.
“We come here to represent those who can’t be here, who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms that we enjoy today,” said Gaudet, who was awarded a bronze star for “heroic or meritorious achievement or service” as a radio man in Vietnam.
Chenery’s Principal Kristen St. George advised students to take a moment on the holiday to personally reach out and thank a veteran “for their contribution … for fighting for things that are important to us and our country.”
St. George read the names of veterans with a connection to the “Chenery community” and for the student to simply “listen and to reflect.” Included in the names were of Chenery teacher Ryan Schmitt and Army Spc. Jonathan Curtis, an alumni who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.
Gaudet read the names of the veterans who stood to receive the applause from the auditorium, including Frank Morrissey, a 96-year-old vet from the US Navy.
“Hopefully these events reminds the students of freedom’s cost,” said Gaudet after the service, before leaving with his fellow veterans for visits at the Butler and Winn Brook elementary schools before a lunch at the VFW post.
“The veterans get appreciated for their service and the kids learn something, so this morning is like a two-way street,” he said.
The highlight of the ceremony was the reading and a musical rendition of the poem, “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae who wrote the poem on May 3, 1915, moments after presiding over the funeral of his friend, Alexis Helmer.
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
“We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
“Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”