AYER — Fred Deppe, the principal of Page Hilltop Elementary School, considers Memorial Day to be one of our nation’s most memorable holidays.
“It is our opportunity to recognize, remember and applaud all of the men and women who have served our country — true American heroes,” he said. “In Ayer, this tradition of honoring the memory of all military personnel has deep roots, founded in the heritage of neighboring Fort Devens.”
In holding with this tradition, the Page Hilltop community came together on Friday, May 28 to honor our country’s military. Two fifth graders, Jocelyn Breault and Bennett Wilson hosted the program and first introduced the United States Marine Corp 25th Regimental Color Guard for the presentation of colors. Sgt. Lawrence Wolfe, Sgt. Timothy Bos, Cpl. Alexander Hollings and Cpl. Keith Dickey marched the flags into the Ayer High School auditorium to start out the morning.
After Ashley Harmon led the Pledge of Allegiance, Angelina Cooper, Edwin DeJesus, Amy Esielionis, Will Levensailor, Avery Nasworthy, Thalia Philippe and Patricia Cerezo sang the National Anthem with their music teacher Brenda Gale accompanying them on the piano. “I really am impressed with all of these students who are getting in front of a huge audience and singing, reciting a poem or playing an instrument. I am very proud,” Deppe said.
There were three patriotic original poems read by fifth graders Sarah Ernst, Jimmy Driscoll and Jillian Folger, “The poems were wonderful,” said parent Michele Granger, who was in attendance. “I even stopped one of the students afterwards and asked to read their poem so I could get every word of it.”
Janet Adamson’s kindergarten class belted out “This Land is Your Land,” Edith Stephen’s second grade class sang “What Color is Our Flag,” and Lynn Oppenheim’s third graders performed “America the Beautiful.”
“The singing was really lovely,” Stephen said. “My class was very happy to be a part of the celebration of this important day.”
Ayer High School senior Mark Kauffman, vice president of Massachusett’s National Guard Leadership Education Program, did a reading and introduced the guest speaker for the morning, Major Craig A. Tibado, 25th Regiment, United States Marine Corps. Tibado, whose two children, Isabella and Miguel, attend the school, thanked everyone in the audience for taking the time to observe Memorial Day. He reminded listeners that Memorial Day is to celebrate and remember those who have given their lives in the line of duty. Tibado picked four names of fallen soldiers to read at the morning’s program to give people who may not personally know someone who has given their life someone to think about on Memorial Day. He mentioned Jonathan Roberge of Leominster who was killed in Iraq in February 2009, Robert Barrett of Fall River who died in Afganistan in April 2010, Needham’s Brian Ouellette who was killed in May 2004 and Kyle Van De Giesen who lost his life in Afganistan in October 2009.
At the end of the program, two special unveilings were made. Master Sargent David Russell of the U.S. Army Reserves, who just returned from a year-long tour of duty in Iraq, brought the school a flag that was flown in Iraq on Dec. 8, 2009. Russell’s daughters, Jessica and Kelly attend the Ayer Public Schools, and they were both very proud to see their father on the stage presenting the flag that will fly over their school’s buildings for the next year. “I am so glad to have my dad home and it was awesome to have him at my school,” eight-year-old Jessica said.
The second surprise was a larger-than-life canvas flag that a volunteer parent group helped to create. “Every child at Page Hilltop has their handprints on this flag in either red, white or blue,” Deppe said. Michele Granger, who helped with the handprinting, was in awe of the final project. “It really turned out far better than we could have ever imagined. It was very meaningful to have every child at the school participate in this project.”
As the Memorial Day program came to an end, Taps was played by Ayer High School’s Craig James-Mauro, and a “receiving line” was formed so that the Page Hilltop students could shake the hands and thank some of the military personnel who were in attendance that morning.