AUBURN — Students learned history and met local veterans who served in six wars — from World War II to Afghanistan — during an Edward Little High School assembly Wednesday.

The day was the third annual “Take a Veteran to School Day,” at which veterans were the honored guests during the pre-Memorial Day ceremony.

Jennifer Tyll was the guest speaker. She is a young mother, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former Navy officer. She and her husband, Chris, run Pat’s Pizza in Portland. He is a former Navy SEAL and a U.S. Naval Academy graduate.

Tyll urged students to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and spoke about how important colleagues and friends are and how individuals must set high expectations for themselves.

She began her speech wearing her Navy Reserve uniform, complete with ribbons and awards. By the end, she was dressed in plain clothes.

“What if I didn’t wear my Navy jacket?” she asked as she took off her jacket.

“What if I just showed up looking just like you?” she said, stepping out of her Navy skirt.

The audience stirred, then laughed when Tyll revealed the second skirt she wore underneath.

“This is what we look like,” she said, adding that veterans have families, businesses and lives. “They’re the person in Dunkin’ Donuts who you see every time you go in and don’t say hi, then someone realizes he’s a World War II vet who stormed the beaches of Normandy.”

Another person a veteran could be is the helpful woman at the library, who was a nurse in Saigon during the Vietnam War, she said.

“He’s sitting, she’s standing, right there,” she said. “Please talk to these people.”

There’s no veteran who doesn’t appreciate a “thank you for your service,” she said, adding that they didn’t serve for the thanks but for love of country.

When veterans came into the gym Wednesday morning, each was given a shirt and a handwritten note from a student.

Tyll read her note aloud: “’Dear veteran, Thank you for serving our country. It really means a lot. My brother is serving right now. It is a great honor to have you at our school.’”

Life is about people, Tyll said. “You never know who you will meet or how. I would like to meet Pam, who wrote this note.”

The audience stirred again, until student Pam Monto, 16, came down from the bleachers. The two shook hands. Tyll gave the teenager a coin, a military tradition for a job well-done.

After Tyll’s speech, students read papers they wrote on how each war started, and how many Americans died or were wounded. Speaking about World War II, Amanda Grenier asked veterans from that war to stand.

Three elderly men stood and were given a standing ovation.

Other students talked about the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, Afghanistan and the Cold War. Each time, veterans in the audience were asked to stand, and all received standing ovations.

The ceremony concluded with the band and chamber choir, dressed in tuxedos and black gowns, performing military numbers.

Among the veterans in the audience was Paul St. Pierre, 77, of Mechanic Falls, who served in the Korean War and earned the Bronze Star. During his six months in the war, he suffered frostbite and dodged sniper fire while stringing telephone lines. He also retrieved bodies from foxholes.

His brother, Henri St. Pierre of Auburn, served in Desert Storm and as a B-52 crew chief in Vietnam.

“When I came back, I was spit at, called a ‘baby-killer,'” he said. “I’ve always carried that.”

The culture has changed, “which is great,” St. Pierre said. “Our young people need to be educated about what we went through. It’s part of our history.”

Another in the audience was Marine Thomas Carll, 21, of New Gloucester, the youngest of four generations of servicemen. His great-grandfather served in World War I, and his grandfather and father served in the Army.

His father is Edward Little High School resource officer Shawn Carll, who called “Take a Vet to School Day” a fantastic event.

Serving in the military is “an honorable and noble profession,” Carll said. “If everybody did it, we’d have a different country.”


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