October was a busy month for MMS Team Boothbay and Social Studies teacher Lauralee Fegel.
On October 4th the team took a trip to the Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor to tour the facility and interview veterans. The students did extensive preparation for the interviews, learning interview strategies and studying information on the background of several wars, from WWII to today’s war against terrorism. In a recent letter to the editor, team Boothbay student CJ Sudbury spoke of his interview with Vietnam War veteran, Edward Leonard. “Mr. Leonard taught me to appreciate the safety and comfort I have when he told me of his life during the war.”
Two weeks later, on Oct. 18th, students and staff gathered to line the hallway, stairs, and lobby of MMS, flags in hand, to welcome a panel of veterans who had come to speak with them. Students cheered and called their thanks as the veterans entered, then attended two separate panels, one on the Vietnam War and the other on PTSD. “Our students really come to understand some of the sacrifices made to secure our freedoms through these panel discussions,” said Mrs. Fegel. After the trip and the veterans’ visit, the students all write thank you letters and an essay and choose a cumulative project directed towards honoring veterans.
All of this preparation leads up to the main event: the annual Veterans Assembly. According to Mrs. Fegel, “The Veterans Assembly is the opportunity for our students to have an authentic audience, a time to say thank you to our veterans for all that they did and do for all of us.” Mrs. Fegel visits most of the VFW and American Legion meetings held during the month of October to personally invite local veterans to the event. Students and staff can also invite family members who have served or other veterans they wish to honor.
This year’s assembly took place Friday, November 4th at 9:00AM in the MHS PAC. The high school band, under the direction of Andrew Forster, provided music to honor the veterans and Team Boothbay lined the entryway to the PAC, holding flags and thanking veterans as they were escorted to their seats to the applause of the hundreds of assembled students, parents, faculty and staff. U.S. Senator Susan Collins attended as the keynote speaker and took the opportunity to personally shake the hands of many veterans and offer them her thanks as they were led to their seats. Several students stood to read their essays and letters relating their experiences over the past month and honoring the veterans for their service.
Perhaps the most moving moment of the assembly was when the band played the Armed Forces Medley while students carried the flag of each branch across the stage. “I really liked the branch flags,” said Team Boothbay student, Lexie Paine. “Walking across the stage with that flag was an honor.” The tradition for the Armed Forces Medley is that members of each branch stand as their march is played. Seeing the faces of each group of veterans as they stood and turned to face the cheering audience really brought home the importance this assembly has for the community as a whole.
For Mrs. Fegel and her team, this is a labor of love. “It’s beautiful to watch it all come together,” said Mrs. Fegel, “students and veterans appreciating each other. It’s moments like these that make me proud to be a teacher in America.”