By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
This week my wife and I attended our favorite yearly mayoral function, Lewiston High School’s graduation ceremony. It is heartening to watch these graduates approach the stage as children and exit, diplomas in hand, as adults.
During the ceremony some members of the graduating class were honored for their academic achievement. Several of these awards were very prestigious. Those in attendance were informed that many of these award winners would be attending top rate colleges in the fall.
But let us remember that these accolades were not only the result of hard work by the students, but also by caring parents and dedicated teachers who provided encouragement and the skills needed to get to this step.
Several of these graduates displayed sashes with either the Army or National Guard logo designating their future path. They earned these sashes through hard work and were allowed to display their unselfish dedication to our country. In Lewiston we honor our military men and women. It will be a cold day in Hades before we bend a knee to the politically correct or those who are offended by military service.
A special thanks is extended to LHS Principal Linda MacKenzie for her lesson in etiquette delivered to those whose disrespectful behavior annoyed many of those present.
Sitting in the Colisée, my thoughts wandered back to my graduation 48 years ago. Many of us neighborhood kids wanted a life of adventure, and upon graduation we joined the Marines. Who could resist those uniforms or the bulldog wearing the Gunnery Sergeant stripes? It was a chance to fulfill our John Wayne/Audie Murphy fantasies, a chance to come back with a chest full of ribbons. Boy, did we have a surprise coming.
We soon found out something our fathers, who were part of the Greatest Generation, never passed on to us. War films are nothing more than fantasy. Death was finality—there would be no upcoming movie. There was blood, torn bodies, screams of pain and the smell of rotting flesh. There was no wounded man, drawing on a cigarette, no blood visible, calmly awaiting death.
Some of those kids from the neighborhood did return with ribbons on their chests, but never had the opportunity to walk down the street and display them.
The graduation date of June 6 was the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Europe and the largest invasion by sea in U.S. history. It brought to my mind thoughts of the graduating ceremonies of the Classes of 1942, 1943 and 1944. Male graduates would find themselves going off to faraway places in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Pacific to fight our enemies.
Many of the women graduates went to work in factories making ships, tanks, planes and other equipment needed by our military to carry on the war effort. It was a time when people came together and unselfishly sacrificed for the good of our country.
Graduates starting in the year 2001 and those of the 1940s had a similar determination: both responded to an attack on our country. Those of us who served in Korea and Vietnam were engaged in stopping the creeping cancer of communism from infecting our country.
When I saw the Lewiston High School students proudly displaying their U.S. Army or National Guard sashes, I thought of President Ronald Reagan’s words as he addressed the Army Rangers who had scaled the cliffs of Pointe Du Hoc on D-Day:
“These are the boys of Pointe Du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end the war.”
To honor the patriotic unselfishness of these students, I paraphrase President Reagan’s speech:
These are the men and women of Lewiston High School Class 2014. These are the young men and women who step forward to fill the void created by our quickly fading Greatest Generation. They will face our entrenched enemies and will defeat them.
May God watch over and protect you all.