GUILFORD, Maine — Vietnam War veteran Warren Luce of Parkman kept his composure Wednesday as SAD 4 children thanked him and other veterans for their service during a touching assembly.
It was when a young boy came up to him after the program to personally thank him for his service that Luce finally broke into tears.
Leaning on his cane, the former Navy SEAL said, “This is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this. You don’t know how that makes me feel. They called us baby killers when we returned from the war. This means so much to me.”
Luce was joined by about 100 other veterans and their families, who were shown kindness and respect from the moment they arrived at Piscataquis Community High School. Fatigue-dressed students in the Criminal Justice program at Tri-County Technical Center in Dexter offered them assistance at the door and third-grade pupils, who held small flags, eagerly greeted them with smiles inside the gymnasium.
Each of the veterans received a poem written by the grade school children, and they were entertained with an assortment of readings and patriotic numbers.
The event was as much for the children as it was to recognize their heroes. The children had the opportunity to view a short video depicting a former veteran who wanted his grandchildren to know what sacrifices veterans made for their freedom. They also saw firsthand the young faces, as well as the wrinkled faces, of those who put their lives on the line for others. Some of the veterans and their family members had tears trickling down their cheeks during the program.
Teacher Carol Poirier, who spearheaded the event, asked the students to take a moment after the assembly to reflect on what Veterans Day means to them. She thanked them for their participation, as well as the teachers who spent weeks working with the children to perfect their patriotic musical selections, and the veterans and their families who attended.
Edward Grant of Sangerville, who was in the Army during the Vietnam War, called the program “beautiful.” That the children are learning about the sacrifices that were made and are continuing to be made for their freedom is great, he said.
That, too, pleased Glenn Haggstrom of Parkman, who also served during the Vietnam War. He said America did not welcome back the veterans of that war, but he was appreciative of the support now. He said to be called and invited to the program by Brooke Kutawski of Parkman, a fourth-grade pupil, and to hear the children thank the veterans, was very touching.
“There were a couple of times I had to fight back tears,” he said.