NORTH ANDOVER — If yesterday morning's Veterans Day observance at Thomson School could be summed up in just one word, it would be "Thanks."
Veterans of varying ages attended what has become a tradition at Thomson. Several of them are the parents or grandparents of students at the school. When they were asked to stand, they received enthusiastic applause from the young people seated on the floor of the gymnasium.
The tribute had special significance for Dan Connolly, who served in the Army from 1984 to 1988. His daughter, fifth-grader Hannah Connolly, played "The Star-Spangled Banner" on the piano.
Her classmates, Bailey Lawson and Jhaniya Carrillo, then sang the national anthem.
"It brought tears to my eyes," said Connolly, who served in the 7th Infantry Division.
Joining the Army, he said, was "the best thing I ever did in my life." His military service taught him important life skills and introduced him to soldiers of many different backgrounds, he said.
While Connolly enlisted, Robert Smith was drafted into the Army – a practice that the United States ended 40 years ago, as the Vietnam War was winding down. Smith did not serve in combat, but he was on the front line of the Cold War, assigned to West Germany.
Tens of thousands of Soviet troops, who inspired fear among the people of Western Europe as well as Americans, were stationed just across the border in what used to be East Germany. Smith was a construction engineer.
"The presentation was very good," he said of the observance. Smith is the grandfather of two Thomson students: Katelyn Finn, a third-grader, and Jonathan Finn, a fifth-grader.
Robert Beaudoin, whose children are now adults but attended Thomson School, completed two tours in Vietnam while in the Navy. He was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga.