Nathan Hale-Ray Middle School students honor veterans

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
East Haddam - posted Mon., Nov. 14, 2011
Students (from left) Noah, Griffin, Kyle and Brooke fold the flag with the assistance of Marc Youngquist. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
Students (from left) Noah, Griffin, Kyle and Brooke fold the flag with the assistance of Marc Youngquist. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

Friday, Nov. 11, was a special day for students at Nathan Hale-Ray Middle School. The day was devoted to thanking those who have served in the armed forces, protecting the freedoms that they all enjoy.

“They served for you guys,” said Major Dana Hyatt, as he provided the closing remarks at the day’s end. Hyatt served 28 years in the U.S. Marines. “I was gone for about half my son’s life,” said Hyatt. Seeing action in both Desert Shield and Desert Storm and earning a chest full of medals and ribbons, Hyatt, who has been teaching for 16 years, is now a fifth-grade teacher at NHRMS.

“There are no weekends off. There are no days off,” said Hyatt about life as a soldier. “But it’s not all bad. You get to go to some cool places, and you get to meet some great people,” he added.  Veterans, said Hyatt, are willing to make any sacrifice, because they truly believe in their role as protectors of the freedoms that the rest of the country enjoys.

In between a morning flag-raising ceremony and an afternoon flag-lowering ceremony, NHRMS students spent the day talking to veterans, hearing their stories and participating in various activities, all related to the veterans.

“They had good interest. They really wanted to hear what happened,” said Marc Youngquist, a 22-year veteran of the Marines and Army.  Youngquist also spent a significant part of his life in Iraq.

“I went over at [age] 51 and I came back at 53,” he said. He was with a group of young men and women from the Connecticut National Guard who saw action in Iraq. “We were in the middle of it [the fighting],” said Youngquist, who received a Bronze Star for his service. He helped the students close the Veterans Day activities, helping them lower the flag and showing them how to properly fold a flag for storage.

“We are so very thankful to all of them,” said Superintendent of Schools Ellen Solek. But the appreciation for the job that veterans have done, and continue to do, should not end at the end of the day, she said. “Today is the beginning of Veterans Day, because every day is an opportunity to say thank you to them [veterans],” she added.

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