AUBURN — Retired Army Col. Don Dubay, a 1960 graduate of Edward Little High School, worked in military intelligence with the CIA, the FBI, at the Pentagon, with natives in Vietnam, the Middle East and North Africa.

Retired Marine Col. Todd Desgrosseillier, a 1981 graduate of Edward Little, traveled the world, piloted an aircraft carrier and earned the Silver Star after being injured during the battle for Fallujah in Iraq.

With their yearbook pages on display, both veterans returned Tuesday to share with students how lessons they learned helped them succeed. The talk was part of the series “ED Talks,” from Edward Little alumni.

Dubay, 74, of Wake Forest, North Carolina, joined the Army after graduating from the University of Maine in 1964. He recalled how two high school classes stayed with him, French and history.

Growing up in a family that spoke French, “I thought I could skate by” doing the minimum work in French class, he said. But Madame Elise Gervais quickly made it clear he had to work.

Dubay did.

“My use of French had a lot of value” during his military intelligence career. In Vietnam, he said, “I could communicate with my counterparts in French without an interpreter. That was a real boom.”

Years later working in challenging situations in the Middle East and Africa, “I used my French throughout,” he said.

In his high school history class, teacher Marjorie Jordan emphasized how knowing history was important to understanding cultures, Dubay said, that cultures “are based on something that happened at an earlier time.”

He took that to heart, which enhanced his diplomatic skills, he said.

“By paying attention to this I could learn a great deal about people I was dealing with on a daily basis,” Dubay said.

Desgrosseillier, 53, of Newbury, Maryland, said his family, his high school principal and history teacher, ‘Doc’ Charles Peterson, influenced him.

His teacher was a decorated veteran who taught him about leadership and love of history.

“Doc Peterson took an interest in me,” Desgrosseillier said. Peterson told him he had potential and needed to apply himself, not just for himself but to serve others.

After high school, Desgrosseillier enrolled at the University of Maine. He quit, rode a bicycle to Seattle, joined the Marines and signed up for the infantry.

He liked it and was promoted quickly. Before long his commanders called him in for a talk, saying he should become an officer. Initially Desgrosseillier didn’t want to; he got the same kind of you-should-serve-others talk he heard from his father and teacher.

Desgrosseillier enrolled in the officers program and went to Boston University, graduating with a history degree. He went back to the infantry as an officer.

During the Iraq War he led 976 Marines, getting to know them by asking: “‘Who is important to you?'” He wrote to those family members telling them about their Marine. They always wrote back, he said.

Desgrosseillier had to write to some again, after “14 of them were killed doing what I asked them to do.”

During the battle for Fallujah, Desgrosseillier was wounded more than once, refusing to leave the field. The injuries left him with a brain injury which led to his medical retirement.

He suffers from vertigo. “I hang onto things,” he said.

Sometimes he can recall a word but can’t get it out; his solution was to buy a dictionary and read words. “It’s my way of recovering,” he said.

He told students to be a good leader, a person must first lead themselves by always maintaining integrity.

“You need a mentor,” he said. “Develop your character. Maintain your integrity. Be humble and commit yourself to be a lifelong learner.”

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Retired Marine Lt. Col. Todd Desgrosseilliers, left, talks with Edward Little High School seniors Caleb Hebert, Justin Gendell and retired Navy veteran Richard L’Heureux at the Auburn school Tuesday. Desgrosseilliers is one of two EL graduates who spoke to students about their military experience. Hebert and Gendell have enlisted in the Marine Corps and will report to Parris Island, South Carolina, later this year.

Edward Little High School art teacher Shawn Rice, left, introduces retired Army Col. Don Dubay, center, and retired Marine Lt. Col. Todd Desgrosseilliers during the “ED Talks” lecture series at the Auburn school Tuesday. The two EL graduates spoke about their military experience.

Retired Marine Lt. Col. Todd Desgrosseilliers’ picture, center, appears in the 1981 Edward Little High School yearbook.

Retired Army Col. Don Dubay’s pictures appears in the 1960 Edward Little High School yearbook.

Retired Army Col. Don Dubay shows the picture of himself from the 1960 Edward Little High School yearbook to art teacher Shawn Rice at the Auburn school on Tuesday.

Edward Little High School seniors Eli McBride, left, and Josh Main talk with Navy veteran Richard L’Heureux, center, and Marine Corps veteran Todd Desgrosseilliers at the high school on Tuesday. McBride and Main report to the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, New Jersey, on Aug. 29.


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