I just returned from cooking several hundred eggs for the 16th Annual Veteran’s Day Breakfast, an event held at the Wamogo Middle/High School in Litchfield, Connecticut. This annual breakfast is offered by the student service groups (Student Council, Peer Counselors) for military veterans, servicemen, and their families. The food is cooked by teachers and student volunteers; even family members help out. This morning, the five-year-old son of the AP Psychology teacher stood next to me and stirred the scrambled eggs in one of several portable griddles. He had come prepared with his own chef’s apron “to cook for the soldiers”.
The breakfast is served from 7:30AM until 10:30AM and serves large portions of the following: scrambled eggs, pancakes,bacon, sausage, hash browns, toast and baked goods. The coffee is hot and plentiful. The tables are decorated with cards from elementary schoolchildren in the district of hand-painted flags accompanied by letters thanking the veterans.
Veterans from all over the Litchfield and Northern Fairfield County area come to this event. Many wear their former military uniforms, while others wear jackets and hats bearing the insignia of a branch of the armed forces. Many veterans have patches or embroidered labels that indicate when they served (“Vietnam Veteran”, “Desert Storm”), other patches wear reminders of the continuing support necessary for POW/MIAs. Alumni who have joined a branch of the service return in their new uniforms and mingle with their former teachers and the underclassmen who remember them.
The attendees are treated to performances by the school band and choir during the breakfast. Students have spent the past weeks practicing with either the chorus teacher or the band director in preparation for this event. The choir sings first with patriotic songs; some of the guests join in. The highlight of the morning, however, is the tribute to the veterans and servicemen when the songs from each branch of the service are played.
The Coast Guard march “Semper Paratrus” is played first, then, a medley of the other branches of the service theme music is played: “Anchors Aweigh” (Navy), “The Caissons Go Rolling Along” (Army), “The Halls of Montezuma” (Marines), and finally “The Air Force Song”-(‘Off we go into the wild, blue yonder…’) As each song plays, those who have served or who are serving in that particular branch of the service, stand to receive the recognition and applause from the audience. This year, the number of Army and Air Force veterans was the largest, but when the lone Marine stood to be recognized, I overheard someone say, “That’s ok….one Marine is all that is necessary.” Wamogo High School itself is well represented in each branch of the military; there are several students who enlist or enter an ROTC program at graduation every year, a percentage greater than the state average.
To top off the morning, there is a cannon shot from the top of the hill by the Litchfield First Artillery Division whose members include some faculty. Overall, over 100 students, roughly 20% of the student body, participated today in cooking, cleaning tables, or serving food; or performing musically for the veterans. They came to school early- on a day off -to thank those who supported the United States by serving in the military in war and in peace, and who now continue to support Regional School District #6.
Those students and audience members who sang “America the Beautiful” this morning have seen, up close and personal, the faces of those who served. The students had the chance to sing to these veterans these high words of praise from this song….
O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!
Thank you, Veterans and Servicemen, from Wamogo Middle/High School.