For the past twenty-six years, the students at Gaylord Middle School (GMS) have held a Veteran’s Day Celebration to honor those who have served in our military in wartime or peacetime. Local veterans and their spouses are invited as GMS students and staff pay tribute to the sacrifices all veterans have made.
Former GMS principal Jerry Belanger started the program to educate students about the sacrifices members of the armed forces make for our country while honoring local veterans. According to GMS principal Joe Sommerville, the “heart and soul of the program has always been our student involvement as a way to honor our veterans.” All GMS students get involved, making gifts for the veterans each year, greeting the honored guests as they arrive, and serving cinnamon rolls made by the kitchen staff. They are a hit every year!
Five years ago, two local veterans who were so moved by this event, Joe Marsiglia and Marcy Beauchesne, started the Veteran’s Day Celebration Fund at the Otsego Community Foundation to ensure that there would be enough funding for this program to continue. The Veteran’s Day Celebration Fund is a designated fund that provides support for a specific nonprofit organization. Designated funds allow donors to support specific causes and organizations they care about. Money from this fund will only support this important annual event. We are celebrating the 5th anniversary of the Veteran’s Day Celebration fund of the OCF.
When we asked Joe why he chose to partner with the OCF when establishing this fund, he said working with the OCF was a “natural fit.” According to Joe, “The OCF is really the only organization in our community that has the ability to do what we were looking for. An organization to manage funds in a way that would allow for this exceptional program to continue for the long term. OCF is a great partner for this program. They are the catalyst for this great program to continue.”
Joe first attended the Veteran’s Day Celebration fifteen years ago. The impact of the program stuck with him. He was impressed with how the school was teaching the value of our military veterans through this program, and he appreciated that the veterans had an opportunity to share their experiences with the students, faculty, and community members.
“Many of our Vets are living history books, and all have a story to tell,” says Joe. “I was moved as I watched WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans interacting with and telling the students about their experiences serving the nation. Just as important were our Veterans who never served during wartime yet still served. This message that ALL veterans, wartime or peacetime, should be recognized for their service really hit home for me. Now, we witness a new and younger generation of selfless servants interacting with our youth, telling their stories and what service to the nation means to them. It is magical watching our youth speaking and learning from our veteran community.”
For Joe Sommerville, there is no one memory that stands out from this celebration. Rather, he is struck by the number of former GMS students who sat in the stands for this program years before and are now being honored and thanked for their service to our country.
This year’s celebration will be held on Friday, November 10, starting with a reception for veterans and their spouses at 8:15 a.m. in the GMS cafeteria. The tribute takes place in the GMS gymnasium at 9 a.m. and will conclude around 10:15 a.m. All veterans are welcome.
If this cause is important to you, or you would like to honor a veteran in your life, please consider contributing to The Veteran’s Day Celebration Fund. A donation today can keep this program going. According to OCF Executive Director Dana Bensinger, “The Veteran’s Day Program Fund of the OCF ensures that Gaylord Middle School students will forever have the opportunity to honor veterans despite other uncertainties. There are so many special pieces to all of this, from inviting veterans they personally know to sharing photos of relatives who have served to their sharing talents at the event itself.”
Anyone can contribute to this fund, and all donations are welcome. For more information, please visit the Veteran’s Day Program Fund giving page here.