Recognizing service and sacrifice

U.S. Navy veteran and SCCTC Dean of Students William Squier in his Naval days with son, Robert. Squier served on submarines with deployments lasting nearly three months. His son, Robert, in a recent photo at left with his family, is now an instructor at West Point. PHOTOS COURTESY WILL SQUIER

Robert L. Squier was a member of the Army Air Corps during World War II. PHOTO COURTESY WILL SQUIER

Students and faculty at the Elk Lake School District recognized the sacrifices of veterans Friday as speakers explained what it means to them to be veterans.
Janice Gavern, the historian of American Legion Post 154 in Elk Lake, took her young audience back to the dark days of September 2001 when terrorists hijacked four planes and used them as missiles to attack buildings in New York City and the Pentagon.
“Some very bad men had stolen four airplanes. They had already attacked the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon with three of them. The fourth plane was going to attack the White House,” Gavern told her audience of kindergarteners through third graders.
Gavern told students about two Air Force pilots, then Lt. Col. Marc H. Sassville, who is now a two-star general, and then First Lieutenant Major Heather Penny, now a Major, who took off in their jets on Sept. 11, 2001, to try and stop one of the planes from reaching the White House. One big problem: Neither plane had any ammunition or missiles on them.
“They intended to crash their planes into the stolen plane to keep it from being used as a bomb. When they took off they didn’t expect to survive their mission,” Gavern said.
But the plane they were looking for, known as United 93, had already crashed in a field outside of Shanksville, Somerset County,
The fact that the two pilots took off never expecting to touch down again didn’t surprise Gavern at all.
“I wasn’t surprised at all. They had taken the same oath that I had,” she said.
“That is what being a veteran means to me,” she said.
While Gavern spoke of jet fighters soaring high through the skies, the morning’s guest speaker, U.S. Navy veteran William Squier, talked about submarines cruising deep below, silently making their way, undetected. Squier is also the dean of students at the Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center.
Squier explained the sacrifices submariners, those in “The Silent Service,” make living, bunking and working for months in cramped spaces right smack up against nuclear warheads.
“You didn’t come up for almost three months. The sun looked pretty good. It didn’t matter if it was raining,” he said.
Squier served from 1983 to 1992, primarily as a nuclear reactor operator, Petty Officer Second Class, aboard the U.S.S. Lafayette based in Holy Lock, Scotland, in the North Atlantic, lending a poignant meaning to the term “Cold War.”
Squier is the son of a World War II Army Air Corps veteran and the father of a U.S. Army soldier, Robert, who is now an instructor at West Point.
Soviet fast attack submarines were frequently in hot pursuit of the U.S.S. Lafayette in what Squier called a “cat and mouse” game. The longest he spent underwater was 84 days, but he usually surfaced after 75.
While Squier arrived home safely, those deployments were not without cost. Squier left his three month old son to go to sea and his first daughter was born while he was at sea. Squier recounted Thanksgivings and Christmases spent at sea.
“The best part of the patrols is coming home,” he said.
Squier encouraged students to stop and ask veterans about their service, what they did and where they did it.
“It’s an awesome thing to have served in the military in any capacity,” Squier said.
Elk Lake’s observance of Veterans Day also featured other speakers from other branches of the service who served as Corpsmen, the Navy’s medics, and helicopter mechanics and other military occupations.
Veteran’s Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, celebrates those who served in the Armed Forces. It is celebrated on the 11th day of the 11th month as it was in the 11th hour of that day that World War I ended in 1918.
Mitchell Delano of the National Junior Honor Society said his group donated flags to each classroom as its act of community service for the 2017-2018 school year.
Prize winning essays on what Veterans Day means to them were read by Elk Lake students Chloe Sherman, who won first place, Delaney Shingler, second place, and Dylan Sharer, third place.
“They have to stay away from their families for a long time not knowing when they’re going to see them. It takes someone very brave to do that,” Sherman said in her essay.

Be the first to comment on "Recognizing service and sacrifice"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.