The morning of Thursday, November 9th saw the MHS entryway lined with excited Messalonskee Middle School students. These were members of MMS Team Boothbay, directing their guests of honor into the cafeteria for a celebratory breakfast before the annual Veterans Assembly. Students greeted veterans with a smile, waved flags, and chatted excitedly to each other as they waited to escort their special guests into the PAC for the main event.
This was MMS teacher Lauralee Fegel’s 5th year hosting the assembly, but it has been an area tradition for many years. The program originated with retired Winslow teacher Linda Voss, who still attends the event every year to greet and mingle with the veterans.
From the moment the students escort the veterans into the PAC through an arch of flags, each piece of the program has the potential to bring a tear to the eye of those in attendance. As the band plays the Marches of the Armed Forces, each branch stands during their theme. Students read letters, essays, and poetry about the sacrifices the Veterans have made for their freedom. The moment that particularly stands out for Mrs. Fegel is the procession out of the assembly hall. “The procession is where it gets personal,” said Mrs. Fegel. “Each and every veteran is thanked over and over as students exit the auditorium. Appreciation can be as simple as saying thank you and the procession provides that simple act for all in attendance.”
This year’s assembly once more featured the MHS band and saw the addition of the 7th and 8th-grade chorus singing “God Bless the USA.” In attendance were Governor Paul LePage, who delivered a speech, and a representative from Senator King. Team Boothbay was also honored to have five WWII veterans join them this year.
The process that leads up to this touching assembly starts weeks before with field trips, interviews, panel discussions, and guest speakers. Then it is the students’ turns to synthesize all that they have learned into essays, poetry, short films and letters to the editor. Though there are many significant learning standards woven into the unit, the most important thing the students gain from the process, according to Mrs. Fegel, is appreciation.
“Their appreciation for the freedoms they enjoy and those who secure it grows exponentially after interviewing veterans, writing about those interviews, sharing their work, and seeing how sharing their work impacts the veterans,” she said. “The assembly is the perfect synergy between student and veteran.”
Written by Mandi Favreau