By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Northborough – Dan Miller, a retired U.S. Marine Corps sergeant major, was the keynote speaker at the annual Memorial Day assembly held at Algonquin Regional High School May 24.
“People honestly think that Memorial Day is just a bunch of mattress sales. People think that we’ve forgotten what it means and people get angry when someone walks up and says, ‘Happy Memorial Day,’” Miller said.
“What do you have to be happy about?” he asked. “What is the purpose of Memorial Day?”
“The purpose of Memorial Day is to remember those who raised their hands and swore to defend the country from all enemies foreign and domestic. Those individuals that put on a pack, picked up a rifle and went forward into battle knowing very well that they might not come home,” he said.
Miller speaks across the country on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project. He is a Gulf War veteran, former police officer and has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
In his speech, which was parts thought provoking and parts inspirational, he shared with the students his background, his experiences and his injuries which resulted in brain damage and a metal plate in his lower spine. He also offered words of wisdom and encouraged students to make the right choices in their lives.
The assembly was hosted by Operation Tomahawk, a club at the school that raises funds for veterans’ charities and organizes service projects for veterans. They have sent care packages to deployed troops, hosted dinners for veterans and placed wreaths on veterans’ graves.
Club founder and President Allan Bramhill was master of ceremonies for the assembly that was open to the whole school. Fellow student Renee Lamy sang a heartfelt rendition of “God Bless America.”
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Tyler McBroom, who is a recruiter for the U.S. Army, also spoke. He is proud, he noted, to carry on a family tradition of service in the military. He was stationed in Afghanistan in 2014.
“It really opened my eyes to see the kind of freedom that we have here when you see the poverty and the kind of life being lived in other countries, it really shows you what you have here,” McBroom explained.
He then said that he has had the honor of knowing many that have lost their lives in the line of duty and that we keep them alive on Memorial Day and remember their sacrifices. He encouraged the students to visit graves of veterans because it’s a sobering experience.
“Take a moment to thank those families of the people that have laid down their lives for this country,” he concluded.
Bramhill will soon graduate from ARHS. He has already enlisted in the U.S. Army and will be heading to basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia on July 22.
This event was bittersweet for club faculty advisor Gina Johnson who said that she was excited for Bramhill and that it was really nice that they could support him as this was one of his last events as club president. She also offered support for his future in the military.
Bramhill acknowledged the veterans from the Vincent F. Picard American Legion, Post 234 who were in attendance at the assembly.