• Kurn Hattin students honor veterans
    By Susan Smallheer
    Staff Writer | November 12,2013
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    Photo by Len Emery

    Kurn Hattin musical director and Grammy nominee Lisa Bianconi, at the piano, plays as the eighth-grade choir sings at a Veterans Day ceremony at the school Monday.
    An eighth-grade student from Kurn Hattin Homes for Children lighted 41 candles Monday during the school’s 18th annual Veterans Day observance.

    Chrystal Longe lighted a candle for each of the 41 Vermont servicemen who lost their lives serving the United States during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, teacher Richard Long told the commemorative gathering at the small school for at-risk children.

    “Luckily, there have been none for the last two years,” said Long, a longtime social studies teacher at the Westminster school.

    The 102-student school observance combined music, speeches, and the solemn candle service.

    The first death came in March 2003 with Erik Halvorsen of Bennington, and the deaths came steadily for a couple of years. The last came in August 2011, when Norwich University graduate Brian Bill, a Navy SEAL, died along with 30 other U.S. troops when their Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.

    There were men from Brattleboro, men from Springfield, and a soldier from Wilmington. Most of the dead soldiers seemed to come from northern Vermont or Northeast Kingdom towns such as Hardwick, Wolcott, Walden and Swanton.

    The places of their deaths kept getting repeated: Ramadi, Baghdad, Bagram, and again Ramadi, Ramadi, Ramadi.

    The last loss came March 22, 2011, Long said.

    As Long detailed the servicemen who died, Chrystal lighted a candle, and the 200 people at the Mayo Education Center followed the story of mostly young lives lost, way too early.

    Afterward, Long said the school ceremony focused on the most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, because those were the wars the Kurn Hattin students could remember, but the service honored all veterans from all wars.

    The hourlong ceremony attracted about two dozen veterans from the area, with many wearing the American Legion hat describing their service.

    Three students read essays they had written about patriotism, and Kurn Hattin’s choruses, directed by Grammy-nominated music director Lisa Bianconi, sang songs about country and freedom.


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