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A soldier’s life recalled on Veterans Day

With no school on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, local schools held patriotic ceremonies the week before to recognize the service of veterans.

At a ceremony at Memorial Middle School, seven veterans from Middlefield and Durham spoke about their own experiences in the military. Principal Kevin Brough introduced the guests and said he hoped on Veterans Day the students would reflect on their sacrifices.

Each of the veterans addressed the students and described the realities of being a soldier. “It wasn’t what you see on television,” said Bill Currlin, who served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. “War is a terrible thing to happen to any country.”

Currlin referred to the draft and young men having to leave families and jobs. Many civilians, Currlin said, are nervous talking to veterans and children sometimes don’t know what to say. Currlin said he always appreciates the simple remark, “Thank you for your service.”

Decades of service and several wars were represented at Memorial School. Stan Atwell described transporting soldiers to and from the European Theater during World War II as a member of the Coast Guard. Keith Lohmann, who was also once a student at Memorial, served in the U.S. Army in the most recent Iraq war.

Like Currlin, Lohmann told the students that the day to day life of a soldier was not what they might imagine. One hour of one day out of the year, Lohmann said, might look like it does on television.

John Capega, the Commander of Middlefield/Rockfalls’ VFW Post 10362, described the hours before the Tet Offensive. The soldiers in Vietnam, Capega said, were warned of an imminent attack. “We slept with our rifles, our clothes on.”

Bill Glueck described a different kind of war as a submariner during the Cold War. Glueck joined the Navy at age 17 and served on the USS Trout. Gleuck spoke with pride of his shipmates and his submarine and, like all the veterans at the ceremony, spoke with pride of his service. “I never regretted one day of being in the Submarine Service,” Glueck said, “I was fortunate to be able to serve.”

Several artifacts, such as a World War I uniform, a gas mask, part of a shaving kit, and photos from the USS Trout also taught the students about a soldier’s life.

In honor of the guests, the Select Chorus sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and band members played “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Anchors Away.” Students also displayed a flag in appreciation of veterans to be donated to the Rocky Hill Veterans Hospital.

At Independent Day School in Middlefield, veterans from Middletown led an assembly on Nov. 6 about flag etiquette. Phil Cacciola, Commander of American Legion Post 75 in Middletown, led the assembly and introduced the seven other veterans, who all served in country during the Vietnam War.

The veterans attached two purposes to the visit: to teach the students to respect veterans and the flag. “We’re going to explain how to fold the flag and what the symbols mean,” said Edward Salvatore of Middletown, who served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam in 1967.

Tom Goglia, Bronze Star recipient and Air Force veteran, said he hoped the students would take from the assembly “respect for the flag and what we served our country for.”

Cacciola noted that the students were different grade levels and would take different lessons from the assembly. Sometimes at school assemblies, Cacciola said, the teachers learn as much as the students. “I’m delighted IDS asked us to be here,” said Cacciola, who has been to the school in the past.

“We’ve given them flags. We sat with the kids and did a project on Vietnam.”

The veterans presented a POW-MIA flag to IDS, accepted by head of school Jessi Christiansen. The veterans also observed the daily flag raising at the school.

In addition to watching the precise method for folding an American flag, the students heard about etiquette for flying and displaying the flag in various situations. The flag, the students heard, was not to be used on temporary items, clothing, drapery, advertising or costumes.

According to Cacciola, veterans in Middletown are active and supportive. Most of the men who came to IDS belong to more than one of Middletown’s groups, including two American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, the Disabled American Veterans, Vietnam Veterans, Jewish War Veterans and Catholic War Veterans.

“We do stuff like this together because we’re brothers,” Goglia said.

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