TEWKSBURY — As part of the Tewksbury Memorial High School Veterans Day assembly, 1984 TMHS graduate, Major General Allan “Al” M. Pepin spoke to students and shared his thoughts about leadership and appreciation of veterans.
Pepin assumed command of the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington on June 8, 2021. He previously served as the Deputy Commanding General, United States Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Pepin graduated from Wentworth Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering.
Seniors Justin Darrigo and Molly Buczynski were Masters of Ceremonies for the program. The TMHS Concert Band played the star-spangled banner for the all-school assembly in the gymnasium. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Representative David Robertson.
Senior Harshit Pal read the history of Veterans Day, followed by the TMHS Concert Choir singing America the Beautiful. Representative Tram Nguyen, Assistant Superintendent Lori McDermott, Business Manager David Libby, and Select Board member Mark Kratman were also in attendance.
Teacher Brian Aylward, head of the TMHS social studies department, introduced the guest officials and welcomed Tewksbury veterans in attendance. Aylward recognized Mario Lombardi for 21 years of service in both the Army and the Navy, Richard Frank, six years in the Army, 92-year old Lou Annese, eight years, Army, Vinny Oliva served in the Army for three years and Air Force reserves for 25 years, John Delorey, Air Force and Air National Guard for 37 years, Jim Williams, Vietnam 1967-1968, Robert Cuzzi, Army, and Joe Dermody, USAF 1970-1974.
The students and staff watched a demonstration by the U.S. Drill Team, 3d Infantry Regiment, a precision drill platoon that uses bayonet-tipped infantry rifles. The team performs around the country as good will ambassadors, supporting Army recruiting efforts. This group is part of The Old Guard.
Major General Pepin was introduced by Aylward. Pepin, who comes from a family of service, encouraged the students to be accountable for their actions, treat people with dignity and respect, think beyond the boundaries of themselves, and to associate with people better than they are and to learn from others.
Pepin encouraged students to consider military service as a career and stated there are many options, just as the various service men and women in the assembly were demonstrating. Pepin also explained that it is a strategic priority of the Army to recruit talent and that the military recognizes the competitive job environment.
MG Pepin thanked the veterans for their service. He then introduced SGT Kamille Torres, Sentinel Tomb Guardian at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
SGT Torres shared her journey with the students and the military honors she has achieved.
Senior Brooke Bunyan and junior Cullen Mangan each read their Student Voice of Democracy essays for the audience. The essay prompt for this year was “Why is The Veteran Important?” The Voice of Democracy essays are part of a scholarship competition sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The assembly ended with the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” musical group “Downrange” singing and playing music for the audience. The group performs popular music to support Army men and women through their performances.
Lead singer Bethsaida Ramos belted out Taylor Swift and Katy Perry tunes that the students and veterans enjoyed. At one point, all of the cell phone lights were on in the audience, with students, staff, and veterans swaying back and forth in unison to the music.
The program may be viewed in its entirety on the town of Tewksbury’s YouTube channel.