MACHIAS, Maine — One by one, dozens of area veterans rose from their seats and stood Wednesday to be acknowledged for their service, with each receiving a handshake, a red rose and a thank you from students during the 13th annual Veterans Day program in the Machias Memorial High School gym.
Dressed in casual attire, the men and women didn’t look like soldiers or sailors, but rather more like who they are — teachers, firefighters, mechanics, business owners, lobster fishermen, a town manager and a selectman.
Some of the older vets could barely get up from their seats, while others rose with a crisp salute.
More than 120 veterans and their families attended the program, which featured a free breakfast, followed by poetry readings and musical offerings. Some vets freely shed tears at the lyrics of some songs and poems.
While most of the veterans were men, Jennifer Richardson Geel, the guest speaker, said before the program that it also was important for the students to see a woman in a military role.
A 1988 graduate of Machias Memorial High School, Geel served with the U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion 7th Air Defense Artillery in Desert Storm.
Geel said that military service taught her pride, confidence and a sense of discipline.
Although many of the veterans present at Wednesday’s event are now living ordinary lives, Geel said it was important to recognize their service to keep America free.
“If you can read, thank a teacher,” she told the students. “If you can read in English, thank a veteran.”
Veterans from all branches of the military were in attendance Wednesday representing World War II, Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the War in Iraq. Many wore ball caps with emblems designating their branch of service, and stood when their individual anthems were played by the elementary and high school bands.
A combined school chorus sang “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” and “There You’ll Be.” Poems included “A Veteran Died Today,” “A Man Who is Good Enough,” and “The Flag is Passing By.”
ShayLynn Norman performed a moving solo of “God Bless the USA” and Katie Morse and Emily Lobley played taps.
The colors were presented and retired by the Machias Valley Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol.