The young and old, veterans, civilians, students and family members, gathered in the South Burlington High School gymnasium on Monday morning for the annual Veterans Day ceremony.
The entire student body filled the gym, joining veterans from World War II, the Korean War, Viet Nam, and more recent wars in the Middle East, including the wars in the Persian Gulf and Iraq. Veterans from every branch of the United States military were present. The color guard, made up of South Burlington police officers and firefighters, presented the American and Vermont State Flags while the South Burlington High School Chamber Singers performed the National Anthem.
SBHS Principal Patrick Burke said in his opening remarks that there is a physical reminder inside the school, near the football and lacrosse locker rooms, a plaque commemorating SBHS graduate Marine Cpl. Mark Evnin, who was killed in action in Iraq on April 3, 2003.
“Today is one of the many days when we pause to remember and honor his place in the history of our nation, state, school and community,” Burke said. “Veterans Day, however, is also intended to thank living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contribution to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served — not only those who died — have sacrificed and done their duty.”
The names of South Burlington School District employees who have served in the military were read aloud to honor them for their service as well: Ed Darling, U.S. Army; Caryl Davidson, U.S. Army; Stan Sankowski, U.S Navy; Jim Hanley, U.S. Army; Jeff Jarvis, U.S. Navy; Tom Kessler, U.S. Navy; Gary Marckres, U.S. Army; Dom Marabella, U.S. Air Force; Jerry Normandin, U.S. Air Force; Greg Engleken, U.S. Air Force; Steve Barner, U.S. Army; Deb Bennett, U.S. Navy; and South Burlington Superintendent of Schools Dave Young, U.S. Army.
SBHS English and public speaking teacher Karen Bohmann introduced juniors Silas Shepard, Ashley Darling, and Nathan Scarpa as the student speakers. Shepard talked about his proud family history in the military going back generations, Scarpa discussed the history of Veterans Day, and Darling spoke about the strength of the United States military.
The featured speaker for the high school ceremony was Gary Marckres, the school district director of operation and finance. Marckres was a career member of the Vermont Army National Guard. During his 29-year career, Marckres served as the Commandant of the 124th Regional Training Institute, and as the Brigade Operations Sergeant Major for a multinational force in Afghanistan with battlespace operational responsibility for three provinces.
Marckres was awarded the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, the National Defense Service Medal, and the NATO Medal.
Marckres spoke about the difference in the reasons veterans give when they first join the military, and how those reasons change after they’ve served.
“Money for college, benefits, technical training, adventure, I was broke,” he said, raising his hand on the last reason. “My parents kicked me out of the house, or because jumping out of an airplane just seems kind of cool.
“In contrast, when you ask veterans after their service why they served, you often get very different answers,” Marckres said. “‘To be part of something bigger than myself’, ‘So my children could be safe and secure’, ‘Because it gave my life purpose.’”
At the end of the ceremony, all of the veterans were asked to stand and be recognized, and they were met with a huge round of applause from the audience.
The ceremony then moved on to Veterans Memorial Park on Dorset Street. South Burlington Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Brett Leonard led the ceremony, which again featured the police and fire Color Guard and a performance by the SBHS Chamber Singers.
City Council Chair Helen Riehle was the guest speaker and helped Leonard lay the wreath next to the Veterans Memorial.
She said she recently discovered her grandfather’s World War I medals in her mother’s desk, along with a letter he had written, typed on onion skin paper when he was in France.
“He requested that he be reassigned to the Engineering Corps, where he felt his skills would be more useful,” Riehle said. “He had graduated from MIT with a degree in civil engineering. My aunt tells me he didn’t get the transfer, but he came back alive and unharmed.”
She said she thought the discovery was ironic, as this year’s Veterans Day marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
“I’m grateful to all who have fought to defend our country,” she said. “Who have worked for peace, and who have assured us our rights to speak out, to vote, and to determine our futures as Americans. Thank you.”
In his closing remarks on Monday, veteran Gary Marckres asked those in attendance at the SBHS ceremony to do something going forward, “a challenge to honor those who serve, have served, and those who gave their lives for us all.
“Live up to your potential,” he said. “Respect each other and the people who invest their effort in your success. Let no one tell you that you can’t overcome future obstacles. Be inclusive, Reject divisiveness. Embrace your differences and recognize that those differences are an invaluable source of strength. Stand up for what you believe in. And, in those quiet moments… when it’s just the undistracted you… remember the veterans who took an oath and kept us free.”
SOURCE: Lee Kahrs, The Other Paper