Every year, students in all divisions take part in educational and service activities to learn about and honor all the veterans who have sacriﬁced to serve and protect us. Often this includes assemblies and class visits by alumni, faculty, staﬀ, parents, and grandparents who have served.
“It’s the true meaning of service when you put your country and its well-being ahead of yourself. Sharing this example with our students is important,” said Matt Less, Head of Upper School.
Here’s a look at how each division honored veterans this year.
Upper School students heard from Hill Hamrick '09, who was interviewed by history teacher Brad Touma. Hill served five years as a Marine Corps human intelligence officer. He deployed twice to Afghanistan as a detachment commander supporting Special Operations Forces and as an aide-de-camp to a Marine general. He was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and Navy Commendation Medal. He also received the Baldomero Lopez Honor Graduate Award as the top graduate at The Basic School amongst 200 of his peers.
The program began with Mr. Touma giving a history of Veterans Day, which was originally Armistice Day after WWI. He also shared the stories of several Country Day alumni and the paths they took to military service.
Hill shared that he was in fifth grade on September 11, 2001—old enough to understand the gravity of that event. He says as he grew older and was inspired by his history teachers at Country Day, he was drawn to learning more about the Middle East as region “the language, the culture, the society that I continue to love.” After graduation from Country Day and prior to joining the Marines, Hill attended Williams College where he played varsity football, majored in History and Arabic Studies, and graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.
He told the Upper School, “I look back on my military experience with a lot of gratitude. You recognize when you join you have little control over what happens. Service and sacrifice are appropriate words, and I was fortunate to have many positive experiences.”
However, he reminded students that just a small percentage of the American population serves in the military and while the media often pays attention to elite forces, it’s the courage and bravery of enlisted men and women we should remember to honor on Veterans Day. “It’s easy for the American public to be detached when just a small percentage of the population bears the brunt of war. Veterans Day is to recognize the courage and bravery of people, often just out of high school, who serve admirably with the knowledge that they may have to pay ultimate price. Recognize cost and sacrifice of that small percentage who may have both visible and invisible wounds.”
Middle School students learned about Veterans Day from Greg Walters, Facilities and Plant Operations manager, who spoke to them through their broadcast studio. “In celebrating our veterans, we’re helping students make the connection between those who came before us and sacriﬁced immensely so that we have the opportunity to live in a democratic society,” said Warren Sepkowitz, Head of Middle School.
Every day, students can view the Veterans Wall of Honor in the Dowd Science Building, which recognizes alumni, faculty, and others in the community who have served in the military. The wall was initiated by Head of Middle School Warren Sepkowitz and teachers Art Hoffman and Mike Hennessey. Past parent Mary Engel was also enormously involved in the research to bring the wall to life.
In Lower School junior kindergarten and kindergarten students assembled in front of the Levine Center flagpole for a flag ceremony. They said the pledge, sang the National Anthem, and shared ways they can show gratitude. They also recognized Interim Head of School David Mancos, who served in the army for 20 years.
Grades 1-4 assembled in Belk Stadium to observe Veterans Day. They learned more about service, the selfless role our Veterans play in supporting the public good and heard from guest speakers in our community about their experience serving our country.
“I can’t think of a better way of imparting an appreciation and understanding of service in our students than hearing from and learning about those who bravely served our country,” Bill Mulcahy, Head of Lower School. “It is an incredibly meaningful tradition in our Lower School community, and one that I’m pleased we will be able to continue together this year.”