Honoring Young Veterans’ Sacrifices

Yesterday was Veterans Day. For several years, Staples assistant principal Rich Franzis arranged assemblies, speakers and other events at his school to mark the day.

This year, former Staples teacher — and US Army Ranger — Dan Geraghty invited Franzis to participate at Geraghty’s current school, Easton/Redding’s Joel Barlow High.

Franzis brought along 2 Staples grads. Both are from the Class of 2005. Both joined the Marine Corps.

“At the point in their lives when most 18-year-olds are thinking about summer jobs, the beach and an upcoming transition to college,” Franzis noted, “each of them wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount of up to, and including, their life.”

All-State football player Pat Scott served 2 tours of duty in Iraq, and another in Guantanamo. This year, he will graduate from Fairfield University.

Cal Wauchope pinned on sergeant stripes in record time. He served twice in Iraq, and once in Afghanistan. He too graduates this year, from Pace University.

Celebrating Veterans Day yesterday at Joel Barlow High School *(from left): Calvin Wauchope, Rich Franzis, Pat Scott and Dan Geraghty

Celebrating Veterans Day yesterday at Joel Barlow High School *(from left): Calvin Wauchope, Rich Franzis, Pat Scott and Dan Geraghty

Franzis also talked about 2 other members of Staples’ Class of ’05. Greg Jacobs, an excellent student, served several tours of duty in Afghanistan as a scout sniper. He is now studying at Columbia University. Orlando Figueroa served in Iraq, after getting himself in superb physical shape as a senior.

At Barlow, Franzis presented each former Stapleite with a letter. It conveyed his personal thanks — and a story.

The story began when Franzis was a battalion commander in 2004. One of his soldiers was an intelligence analyst who had deployed to Afghanistan just a few weeks after 9/11.

Before he left, he got permission from the FBI, NYPD and Fire Department of New York to go to the Fresh Kills landfill site, where remains from the World Trade Center were hauled.

Franzis’ soldier secured 50 pounds of granite from the fallen buildings. With the Army’s blessing, he transported it to Afghanistan. His goal was to distribute pieces of the granite to troops on the ground, as a remembrance of why they were there.

Remains from the World Trade Center found their way to Rich Franzis' soldiers in Afghanistan.

Remains from the World Trade Center found their way to Rich Franzis’ soldiers in Afghanistan.

In 2007, when Franzis was in Iraq, he received a box from the man. In it was a personalized letter to every one of Franzis’ soldiers — with a piece of the granite from the World Trade Center for each.

Yesterday, Franzis gave a piece of the granite — and a copy of the letter his soldier sent — to Scott and Wauchope. It’s a personal reminder of their own journeys.

“You have figuratively walked a million miles since the Twin Towers fell on that September morning of your freshman year at Staples,” Franzis said. “Let this be a reminder that you can do anything you set out to do.

“The hardest thing you’ll ever have to do in your life is already behind you.”

9 responses to “Honoring Young Veterans’ Sacrifices

  1. Thanks, Dan. If anyone is hand-wringing about the Millenials and their apparent lack of direction, I still remember something Pat Scott said to me on the sidelines of a football game two years ago. He matter of factly said “With my country at war, why would I do anything except join the Marine Corps? This is my generation’s Pearl Harbor”. Two great young men!

  2. You might relate to this poem about families and absence, “While He’s Away: A Poem About Being Gone.” http://wp.me/p3BzWN-lB

  3. Daniel Geraghty

    Dan, once again, thank you for honoring Veterans Day. Rich, Cal, and Pat truly made a great event very special for me, personally, and for our entire community. The Humanities Department at Barlow created an event that will resonate for decades. Generations of heroes, both men and woman, were allowed a lens into the mind of a great leader and current Colonel. Thank you, Rich. Thank you for honoring those who serve. Thank you for reaching out to our community.

    Regarding some ‘fear’ of The Millenials …
    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    Citizenship in a Republic is the title of a speech given by the former President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on April 23, 1910. One notable passage on page seven of the 35-page speech is referred to as “The Man in the Arena” (Source: Wikipedia)

  4. Dan, Two questions: why were Dean Franzis, Cal and Pat at Barlow instead of Staples? What is the current position of the Staples administration on military recruiters coming to Staples?

    • Mark,

      Dan Geraghty, who is now the Dean of Students at Barlow, taught English at Staples for the past 10 years. Dan contacted me a number of weeks ago and asked if I would address the student body at Barlow. Since Dan, a former Army Ranger, is a good friend of mine, I accepted the offer readily and had since I had immediate contact numbers for Pat and Cal, I asked them to join me. The thought of those four 2005 graduates, including your son Greg, joining the Marine Corps when Iraq and Afghanistan were raging has never left my mind.

      Every one of those kids had other options, but chose not only to enlist, but to enlist in the Marine Corps, knowing full well that a brutal war was in their future. In previous wars, the burden of fighting a war was carried by an entire gereration. As you all too well know, that’s not the case today, when less than 1% of our population is in uniform. Never, with the exception of World War II, has it been particularly crowded at the recruiting offices, and in recent years it’s an increasingly slim slice of the American public who believe in this country enough to put life and limb on the line particularly in the Army and Marine Corps. For whatever reason these four young men stepped forward-even though there was no incentive to get involved.

      Four graduates from one class choosing the military over college is an exception in lower Fairfield County, much less all four electing to enlist in a Marine Corps, that had already been living at the “tip of the spear” for four years is unheard of. I couldn’t be prouder of all of them. There was no incentive for them to get involved and shoulder military service, but they not only chose it, they actively sought it out. No matter the public opinion, all four are true Profiles in Courage!

      My best to you and Greg!

  5. Lisa Marie Alter

    I attended a talk given by Rich Franzis to the Rotary Club several years ago after his return from Iraq. He recounted his experiences there, and the challenging conditions under which they survived (the desert heat, dust, constant threat of attack)…

    I continue to be in awe when I read about and meet these incredibly courageous souls willing — VOLUNTEERING — to put themselves in harm’s way. If nothing else, they tolerate intolerable living conditions while we sleep safely in our luxurious Westport homes — and worse, they exist daily under the threat of attack and possible death… all to preserve our existance in our comfortable, safe and free country. I also think of their families – especially as a mother – getting through every day with the knowledge that your beloved husband, son, father, wife, mother or daughter, may not make it back home.

    I too question why these gentlemen were speaking at Joel Barlow HS on Veteran’s Day, and not at Staples High School (I didn’t know Dan Geraghty was no longer teaching at Staples !).

    I was not at this year’s ceremony at Town Hall but have found it to be a humbling and moving experience, to be in the presence of many brave men and women of all ages who served our country, and to memorialize those who are no longer with us, all who are so deserving of our respect and gratitude.

    I have always felt that the Veteran’s Day ceremony should take place at the high school – not Town Hall – so our youth and future leadership might have a better understanding and awareness of the sacrifices of those who helped to secure their lifestyle, privileges and freedoms here in America.

    Thank you, Calvin Wauchope, Rich Franzis, Pat Scott and Dan Geraghty, Greg Jacobs, Orlando Figueroa, for your service.

  6. how can we ever thank you boys enough & all others like you. May God always be with you. One proud American of our boys