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Tag Archives: Veterans Day 2019
Colin Corneck is a Staples High School senior. A soccer team member and swim team captain, he’s already received a Naval ROTC college scholarship. He’s also applying to the US Naval Academy.
He was chosen to represent Staples, at this morning’s Veterans Day ceremony in Town Hall. Here’s Colin’s address:
I am honored to come before you today. I was recently selected to give this speech because of my passion for serving our country. I’m fortunate to attend a school where there are several of us with the same interest – so on behalf of all of us, thank you.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity. And thank you for allowing me to join you today where I am surrounded by greatness — the greatness of each and every one of you – our American veterans.
Right now, I’m in the midst of the college application process. My goal is to become a naval officer after attending university. I have been fortunate enough to receive an NROTC scholarship and am applying to the Naval Academy.
I would like to thank our veterans for your heroic sacrifices. Your bravery and willingness to serve made it possible for my generation to be here today, a debt that can never be repaid but that instead should be paid forward.
When I was in 8th grade at Bedford Middle School, I was given the opportunity to hear from veterans, possibly even from some of you sitting before me today. I remember a particular story from a World War II veteran, who enlisted at the age of 16 and fought in the Pacific.
While I looked around and saw that my classmates were captivated hearing the courageous story, I felt touched on what I think might have been a deeper level. I don’t think I fully appreciated that many World War II veterans were my age when they began their service, but I was able to realize the momentous sacrifices that members of our armed forces make for the safety of the rest of the country. This was the first time I felt the calling, and the desire to try and follow the extraordinary footsteps each and every one of you has left behind.
I’m privileged to come before you today to talk about service and what it means to me. I come from a long line of people who served in the armed forces, including great-grandparents who fought in World War II and my father, who was a naval intelligence officer assigned to a Marine Corps F-18 squadron and then to the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. I often talk to my dad about his military service.
He speaks of his time in service with the highest degree of pride, and tells me that it was one of his greatest life choices. It has developed him into a great leader, father, and overall person.
My discussions with him excite me to serve as I want to look back on my life knowing that I made a difference in the world, and that my time on this earth was well spent.
Service to me means the opportunity to protect our nation’s values. Just as the veterans we honor today put their lives on the line to protect our democracy and the ideas we stand for as a country, I want to do the same.
We are blessed to live in the greatest country on earth, created by ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and embedded in the Constitution. The ideals of personal freedom and self-government are enabled and protected by our Armed Forces.
The veterans among us today who fought in World War II protected our democratic style of government, and defeated armies fueled by the fascist fire of hatred. The veterans among us today who fought in Korea and Vietnam traveled halfway around the world to protect our allies and give them the opportunity to live democratically just as we do.
The veterans among us today who served in the Middle East and Afghanistan worked to stabilize regions and fight off terror before it gets to the front lines of our nation.
For your sacrifices and accomplishments, I thank you. Each and every one of you has been an inspiration to serve, and I hope to be able to protect our country in the same fashion that you have.
I was asked during one of my Academy interviews how I thought I would fit in with people who have very different backgrounds. Recently, I had the opportunity to have lunch with a group of West Point cadets: male, female, ethnically diverse, and from many different parts of the US. Regardless of background, what brought each and every one of us to that table was a strong connection forged by both a common belief in our country’s values and a commitment to defend those values.
The same can be said for the various branches represented in this room. While there will always be friendly rivalries, there is a broader bond that unites anyone who has served in any capacity in any branch of our military.
I have a lot to learn – and relish moments like this where I can be in the company of each of you. You can teach us all so much. I also have a lot to give. I am extremely excited to enter the next chapter of my life, and to have the opportunity to serve.
One last time I would like to thank each and every one of you for your service. I am inspired to stand among you.
Today’s Veterans Day ceremony also included remarks from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. He noted Westport’s support of all service members — from the Catch a Lift events, to the VFW and its fundraisers, to Homes with Hope’s supportive housing.
He urged all Westporters to re-commit to making sure that “all our veterans are able to live their lives in dignity, accessibility, and with a peace of mind that comes with our ongoing support.”
For several years, Westport schools have been in session on Veterans Day.
At first, the move was controversial. Why, some residents wondered, did our students and staff not get the federal holiday off, to honor all those who have served our country?
Of course, that’s not what most people do on Veterans Day. If you’ve got the day off, odds are you spend far less time thinking about America’s vets than you do about going to the gym, walking the dog and what’s for dinner.
Things are very different inside our schools.
Many make the day meaningful, by prepping students with special programs.
Every year on or around the holiday, Bedford Middle School invites veterans to meet, in small groups, with 8th graders. The vets talk about their experiences, and lessons learned. Students ask questions, and have meaningful conversations.
Jay Dirnberger has participated for the past 8 years. He always looks forward to it — especially the attentiveness of the youngsters, and their insightful questions.
Sometimes, he says, they help him uncover long-forgotten incidents or emotions.
Jay and his wife, Molly Alger, always look forward to the thank-you notes that arrive from students a few days later. They are detailed and meaningful, she says. Every year, one or two bring her to tears.
Ted Diamond is a longtime participant too. The World War II Army Air Corps combat navigator was there again last Friday — at age 102. So were 96-year-old Larry Aasen, and 95-year-old WWII vet Leonard Everett Fisher.
“This is a terrific program,” Molly says, “particularly in a town that does not have a lot of family members on active military duty.” She thanks Courtney Ruggiero, David Deitch and the social studies staff for organizing this event for “the future leaders of our country.”
Greens Farms Elementary School usually holds a Veterans Day event on the actual holiday as well. This year, due to scheduling issues, it was last Friday.
For the past 7 years, 3rd grade teachers have run an all-school assembly. That’s no coincidence: instructors Amy Murtagh, Karen Frawley, Dan Seek and Michelle DeCarlo all have immediate family members who are veterans.
Murtagh’s husband is on active duty in the Marine Corps Reserves. He recently returned from a year-long deployment, including 7 months in Afghanistan. He presented GFS with a flag flown over his base.
Frawley’s mother is a retired Air Force member. It’s important, Murtagh says, that Greens Farms students meet a female vet.
Seek’s father is also retired from the Air Force — and a former POW. DeCarlo’s father-in-law is a veteran too.
Every year, the GFS program begins with a reception. Veterans, their family and school students or staff members they’re related to swap stories.
The 3rd graders then run the assembly for the entire school. There is a Pledge of Allegiance, national anthem, and a discussion of why Veterans Day is important. Then everyone sings songs from each branch of service.
Third graders teach the rest of the school about something related to the day. Past lessons have included a Missing Man table, and discussions of the Oath of Enlistment and the sacrifices veterans and their families make.
This year, the subject was the importance of our flag — including flag-folding. That was especially poignant. The ceremony was conducted by 2 vets who recently returned from deployments to Afghanistan. One — Lt. Ryan Weddle of the Navy — is the father of a current 3rd grader. On Friday, he folded the flag with Capt. John Murtagh of the Marine Corps
After the ceremony, each veteran was presented with a flag that had already been folded the traditional way. Each vet’s background and honors was noted.
Among the attendees this year: a female veteran, a Purple Heart recipient, a Combat Action Medal recipient, and veterans from multiple wars.
Like Molly Alger, Amy Murtagh believes that honoring veterans in schools takes on added significance here. “Westport doesn’t have the biggest military presence,” the GFS 3rd grade teacher says. “So this is an incredible learning opportunity for our students.”
Meanwhile, it’s a regular — if special — school day today, in Westport. But Colin Corneck won’t be in class this morning.
The Staples High School senior — a member of the boys soccer team, boys swim team captain, and recipient of a Naval ROTC scholarship — will deliver the address at the town’s annual Veterans Day service.
The program begins at 10:30 a.m., with a patriotic concert by the Westport Community Band. In addition to Colin’s remarks, there’s an invocation and benediction by the Rev. Alison Patton Buttrick of Saugatuck Congregational Church; remarks from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe; placing of a memorial wreath by members of VFW Post 399 and American Legion Post 63; taps played by Community Band trumpeters, and the “Armed Forces Salute.”
Colin will represent all Westport students well. They won’t be there, because school is in session. They wouldn’t have been there if school was out, either.
But thanks to the work of teachers and staff at all levels, our youngsters today have a great knowledge of — and appreciation for — what today is all about.