By Paul Tennant firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — It makes sense that Thomson School should make a big deal out of Veterans Day.
After all, this elementary school at 266 Waverly Road is named for Albert Thomson, the first North Andover resident to die in World War I. Thomson was not quite 17 — less than a decade older that some of the children attending the school named in his memory — when an exploding shell killed him in France.
Like many young men of that era, he lied about his age so he could enlist in the Army. A sign high up on the wall of the Thomson School gymnasium reads, “Albert Thomson, 1901-1918.”
Yesterday morning hundreds of Thomson students sat on the floor of that gymnasium during the annual assembly for Veterans Day. They were joined by parents, grandparents, teachers and siblings, many of whom are veterans.
Many students were dressed in their Scout uniforms.
Anna Rozzi, a fifth-grader, read her poem, “For Our Country They Stand,” which was a winning entry in a contest at the school.
“No candy bars,” she later told The Eagle-Tribune. Nonperishable items such as trail mix and dried fruit are acceptable and can be dropped off at Thomson School, she said.
Anna is the granddaughter of Jack Garvin of North Andover, a retired state trooper who served in Vietnam with the Army. Garvin attended the assembly.
Several Thomson fifth-graders have written letters to troops in Afghanistan. Chris Bullis, an Army medic and Thomson School graduate, wrote back and told the students how he and his colleagues provide medical care at an aid station in Zabul Province.
“There is nothing more rewarding than saving someone’s life. I have had the chance to save many lives since I have been in the Army, in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” Bullis wrote in a letter to Riley Birchall.
Bullis is the son of Thomson School special education teacher Doreen Rose, who coordinated the students’ letter writing to troops. Several of those letters were read at the assembly.
Fifth-graders Riley Birchall, Katie Kooken and Caroline Pace led the assembly in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
David Baylies, a North Andover High School senior who attended Thomson School, played taps toward the end of the assembly. Farshad Chowdhury, also an NAHS senior, played the echo for taps.
Students concluded the program by singing “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”
Thomson School has observed Veterans Day in a grand fashion for many years.
“They do such an incredible job,” said Selectman Tracy Watson, whose son Cameron is a fourth-grader at the school. “They make me proud to be an American.”
Assistant Superintendent Gregg Gilligan, who was principal of Thomson until he was promoted to his current position earlier this year, was the master of ceremonies yesterday.
The new Thomson principal, Lorene Marx, said she was “blown away” when she attended her visit Veterans Day observance at the school several years ago. At that time she was a special education teacher at Thomson.