WAKEFIELD – School Committee members are pleased to announce that as part of Northeast Metro Tech’s efforts to recognize Veterans Day this year, students attended a special presentation from two Vietnam veterans, who shared their experiences before, during and after the war.
On Thursday, Nov. 8, juniors taking U.S. History gathered in the school library to hear from Jim Marshall, 3rd Class Petty Officer in the Naval Construction Battalion, and Marine Corps Cpl. Bill Doucette, who is also Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2346 in Saugus.
“We want to thank Bill and Jim for sharing their stories with us ahead of the holiday,” history teacher Joe O’Brien said. “For students, having someone actually talk about their experiences is an excellent source for this point in history and was a really fitting tribute to Veterans Day.”
Doucette and Marshall emotionally recounted tales of their service, speaking about the draft, life on their respective bases in Vietnam and their return home.
Marshall also passed out a sample of the selective service system for men facing the draft in 1971. He asked students to find their birthday on the list, noting that anyone whose corresponding number was at or below 195 would be drafted. A chilling realization came over the group as several students raised their hands when he followed up with, “who would be drafted?”
After their account of the war, Marshall and Doucette answered questions submitted by students prior to the presentation.
What was the biggest adjustment into the military? How did you and your family cope?
Doucette: “Every week, I would get a package from people back at home, which reminded me that people were still thinking of me. My father, he had a little picture of me in my camouflage and he blew it up into a poster and put it in the TV room. Every night, he would pat it and say goodnight, hoping that there was no knock on the door the next day.”
What was your most memorable experience?
Doucette: “New Year’s Eve, 1970. I was high up in the mountains. So high that I was in the clouds. I had a friend who I had gone to boot camp with in Buffalo, New York and I was waiting for him to land via helicopter. It felt so great to see someone I knew when he finally landed.”
Marshall: “The comradery with other people.”
What was life like after war?
Doucette: “Nobody wanted to talk to you. Nobody treated you fairly. I missed my fellow marines.”
Marshall: “The hardest part for me was coming home. For 20 years, I suppressed everything I did. I didn’t want to be ridiculed. So today, when someone comes up to me and thanks me for my service, it’s another little piece that gets healed.”
Following the presentation, Matthew Cheffro, a junior from Wakefield, said he was moved and inspired by the veterans’ stories.
“We as a community must recognize the service and sacrifice of the men and women that have served in the United States military,” he said.
Junior Christopher Solis, from Saugus, reminisced about his own family history after hearing Doucette and Marshall speak.
“This presentation taught me to be appreciative for what veterans have provided to the country,” Solis said. “Coming from an immigrant family, I am appreciative of veterans because without their service, we would not have the opportunities that we have today.”