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November 16, 2022

By Gina Iacono and Emma Johnson

On a recent Thursday morning in November, Fieldston Upper students gathered in the auditorium for a special assembly organized by the Whiskey Bravo Club to honor an important day around the United States — Veterans Day. 

Senior Alex G. ’23 — who opened the assembly with a few welcoming remarks — established the Whiskey Bravo Club at ECFS during his sophomore year after speaking with a family friend who had done the same at The Dalton School. After successfully forming the club, he jumped into organizing the club’s first project, which aimed at raising awareness, building membership, and brainstorming initiatives for the year.

Since the Whiskey Bravo Club’s formation, Alex and his fellow club members have managed to give back to the veteran community in many ways. “In the last three years, we’ve participated in card and packing drives, hosted community lunches, published articles in the Fieldston News, and established an annual assembly honoring Veterans Day,” explains Alex. 

In his welcoming address at this year’s assembly, Alex expressed the importance of recognizing servicemembers’ sacrifices for our own freedom and invited David Leich to share his story with the students. Leich, a locksmith on the ECFS Facilities team, served with the United States Coast Guard beginning in 1978.

David Leich delivers remarks at Fieldston Upper Veterans Day assembly in military uniform.

Leich began by providing important details about the history of the United States armed forces and shared the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

    That mark our place; and in the sky

    The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

    The torch; be yours to hold it high.

    If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

        In Flanders fields.

Leich then read a moving quote that defines a veteran: “A veteran, whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserved, is someone who at one point in his or her life wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount of up to and including his or her life.”

“That is honor,” Leich punctuated. 

After listing the many ways he stays connected, involved, and committed to his duty, Leich emotionally added a final remark: “Let us all remember this: freedom is not free. It was the veteran, not the reporter, who gave us the freedom of the press. It was the veteran, not the poet, who gave us freedom of speech. It was the veteran, not the campus organizer, who gave us the freedom to demonstrate. It was the veteran who saluted the flag, who served beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag. If you love your freedom, thank a vet.”

Dedicated to the Fieldston Upper students attending the assembly, Leich shared a poem he wrote about his experience as a veteran. The poem is titled, “Who am I?”.

Who am I? 

I am a man of many hats all combined into one

I am son and a brother

I am a husband, a father, and a grandfather, just to name some

I am a scholar and a teacher

I am a worker and a volunteer

I am a follower and a leader

I am a retired Coast Guardsman and a veteran

Who are you?

A second speaker, Major Akin Dorsett ’88, a United States Air Force veteran and ECFS alum, illustrated his love for airplanes by recounting a funny anecdote from his ECFS entrance interview when he was just four years old. Major Dorsett shared advice, recalled memories of his time as an aeronautical engineer, and expressed his pride in serving his country.

Akin Dorsett delivers remarks at Fieldston Upper Veterans Day assembly.

After Dorsett left the stage, students took a moment to honor some of the many veterans connected to our ECFS community:

  • Larry Buskey, United States Navy and Fieldston Upper visual arts and film teacher
  • Tony Merino, United States Marine Corps and ECFS campus safety team member
  • Charlie Salcedo, United States Marine Corps and ECFS campus safety team member
  • Chris Sanchez, United States Navy and ECFS campus safety team member
  • Colonel John S. Dwinell, military lawyer and WWII veteran
  • Lt. George A. Dwinell, Korean War veteran
  • Lt. John S. Dwinell Jr., Korean War veteran
  • Bertram Wright, code breaker and WWII veteran
  • Bob Schwantz, United States Army
  • Robert O’Neill, United States Army and WWII veteran 
  • Sgt. Rob Banda, United States Marine Corps
  • LTC Timothy M. Willis, United States Army
  • Frank Tangherlini, United States Army
  • Justin Loy, United States Army
  • Austin Grosin, United States Army

In closing, Alex shared the different ways students could support veterans. He explained more about their partnership with the non-profit organization God’s Love We Deliver. The following day, the Whiskey Bravo Club hosted a letter-writing campaign; the club will send the letters along with meals from God’s Love We Deliver to returning veterans.

Alex feels confident that the Whiskey Bravo Club will continue to serve the veteran community once he graduates next spring. “I’ve been blown away by the positive responses about the Whiskey Bravo Club I’ve received from my peers and teachers. On top of the success of our initiatives, it has been especially meaningful to get to know veterans from our own ECFS community.”

Thank you to the veterans who served our country!

Students at Ethical Culture Fieldston School gather in auditorium for Veterans Day assembly. They sit in the auditorium seats, eyes facing the stage.