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A chance to remember: Sunderland students pay tribute to veterans

  • Air Force veteran Vincent Sarno, left, and son Domenic Sarno, right, a Sunderland Elementary School student, attend Thursday’s Veterans Day Observation Ceremony at the Veterans Memorial, Nov. 9, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Marine Cpl. Jaylan Campbell, center, speaks with students at Sunderland Elementary School Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Marines visit classrooms at Sunderland Elementary School after Thursday’s Veterans Day Observation Ceremony at Sunderland’s Veterans Memorial, Nov. 9, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Sunderland Elementary School children sing during Thursday’s Veterans Day Observation Ceremony at Sunderland’s Veterans Memorial. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Airmen stand at parade rest during Thursday’s Veterans Day Observation Ceremony at Sunderland’s Veterans Memorial, Nov. 9, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Marines stand at rest during Thursday’s Veterans Day Observation Ceremony at Sunderland’s Veterans Memorial. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • UMass ROTC cadets fold a flag during Thursday’s Veterans Day Observation Ceremony at Sunderland’s Veterans Memorial, Nov. 9, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo



Recorder Staff
Thursday, November 09, 2017

SUNDERLAND — Sixth-grader Thelonius Sergent understands the importance of Veterans Day firsthand, since his close cousin, Kyle Demers, serves in the U.S. Navy.

“Sometimes, I’m worried about what might happen when he’s out there,” Sergent said. In honor of his cousin and other veterans, Sergent read a poem commemorating military service with another student during Sunderland Elementary School’s annual Veterans Day observation ceremony at the Veterans Memorial and Park near the town’s center Thursday morning.

The event, which started in 2009, featured students singing patriotic songs, special readings, and comments from Air Force Lt. Colonel Diane Burch. There was also a moment of silence and a flag demonstration by UMass Amherst’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps color guard.

Thursday’s observation was a chance “to remember why they’re serving, and to help other people who have family members serving. There’s always a chance that something could happen — it’s a thought that stays in the back of your head,” Sergent said.

After, more than a dozen active and retired veterans visited the Elementary School on Swampfield Drive to visit and eat lunch with students.

“There are many ceremonies and assemblies that take place throughout the year — by far, this is the most meaningful. And I think the students know that,” said Principal Benjamin Barshefsky.

He noted it’s important for students to appreciate selfless service in the community, which is exemplified well by those in the armed forces. Throughout the morning, veterans visited classes to talk about their jobs and field questions.

In one room, Marine Cpl. Jaylan Campbell pointed to a projector displaying a massive Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement military truck. Campbell is trained to drive the vehicle.

“This can probably pull half of this building — it’s really strong. It can be submerged up to a little bit taller than me,” Campbell explained.

Engaging students in such a way is a “really good experience because kids ask some really great questions,” said Dan Van Dalsen, chairman of the town’s Veterans Memorial Oversight Committee and a veteran of the Vietnam War.

For active veterans like Campbell, originally from Ohio currently stationed at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, the day provided an opportunity “to celebrate those who came before; to honor those who have paved the way.”

And Veterans Day isn’t just for veterans who came home. Sergent made sure to acknowledge those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. “Even if something does happen, they’ll always be remembered,” he said.