Hometown Soldier Welcomed Home

by Doug Robinson

Photo taken from Cross Street Bridge.

After spending the last 15 months serving his country as a combat engineer in Afghanistan, Army Specialist Thomas Russell is home safe, sleeping in his own bed in Salem.  For 15 months, he has provided the routine clearance of roads for soldiers.  During that time, his job was to make sure the roads were safe of any threat to American and Allied soldiers.  He has been decorated and honored with Army Achievement with Valor and Army Achievement citations.

Surrounded by family, friends and neighbors, he arrived home beneath the blaring sounds of sirens echoing from police cars and fire trucks.  Horns became alive from more than two-dozen motorcycles, which had led the procession from Manchester Airport to Salem.  Cheers could be heard from the dozens who watched.  Sporting a Boston Celtics No. 5 jersey, Thomas began reaching out to the crowd, extending hugs, handshakes and thank-yous.

With anticipation of Thomas return, the bridge on Brookdale Road was lined with Salem DPW workers waving flags.  Two front-end loaders were decorated with American flags and the buckets to the loaders were extended into the blue sky.  As cars, trucks, motorcycles, vans, and assorted vehicles passed beneath the bridge overhanging Interstate 93, they honked their horns and waved their hands.

As the two-by-two motorcade approached the bridge, Russell, who was riding shotgun, acknowledged their love by sticking his head out of passengers window and raising his arm high in acknowledgement of their recognition.  Meanwhile, Russells dad, Rick Russell, gave thumbs up to the workers as well.  More than two-dozen motorcycles surrounded the black Suburban as it was escorted down Interstate 93.  An American flag could be seen attached to the rear of the car as the family car passed beneath the bridge.

Thank you for defending our country, said neighbor Donna Wolfenden while neighbor Linda Cyr said she was glad he is home.

Russells father said he is so proud of all my friends who are able to help.  I would also like to thank the three colors of Salem, blue, red, and yellow:  police, fire and Department of Public Works.

And as Russell entered his home sweet home, he passed by the illuminated light that has been in the window draped with a yellow ribbon for 15 months.  Like his family, friends and neighbors prayed for his safe return.  They all waited for this day when he would come home safely and they could turn the window light off.

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The Class of 2008 Salem High School Graduation

by Anum Hussain

Mark Atwater and Nick Aver clowning

Many superstitions exist on the day of bad luck also known as Friday the 13th; however, on this past Friday evening, June 13, Salem High School’s senior class experienced one of the best nights of their lives.  As the sun rested above their heads, 475 students dressed in white and blue caps and gowns advanced towards Grant Field, with their class officers leading the way.

As the audience took their seats, the presentation of colors began as Salem High School’s Air Force JROTC marched on the track holding up the American flag.  The Honors Chorus stood before the audience as they sang “The Star Spangled Banner” in perfect harmony.  Following their performance, Class Vice President Breanne Parhiala led the Pledge of Allegiance.  The Honors Chorus then extended their voices through “Passage”, a song written by Z. Randall Stroope, and directed by Ellen Bosch. 

Salem Principal William Hagen made the opening remarks.  After recognizing the junior class marshals, he began by politely introducing the platform guests of the night, including all the superintendents of the Salem School Districts.  He recognized the parents, teachers, and most importantly, the students for their accomplishments leading to graduation night.  Hagen explained to the graduating class that the diplomas they would be receiving signified that they stand ready, and that he hopes they all succeed in the path they follow.

“The quality of your life is measured by the lives you touch,” Hagen said.

Class Valedictorian Sarah Yunes approached the microphone, explaining that for every high school student there was always one “thing” that kept them going.  Yunes said everyone would miss that “thing” that made their high school career.  For Yunes, band was her “thing,” it was her passion.  She explained that “passion can make you crazy,” but that’s what life was all about.  She spoke to her fellow band members and told them to come together and create the music they love, for one last time.  The band members placed their hands on their instruments, and played “Ballet Sacra – Finale”, conducted by senior Steven Bench and juniors Christopher Correira and Amy Landry. 

Valedictorian William Donovan began his speech by stating the irony of giving a speech that night.  He explained how while he spent hours away studying, the normal teenager was out exploring the world, so what shall he say to them now? 

William Donovan delivers his speech.

“Should I rattle off some study tips, or impress you with big words?” asked Donovan.  On a more comical but accurate note, Donovan decided that he would speak upon the class’s failures because, he said, it’s the failures in life that make you great.  As Donovan said, “good judgment comes from experience, but experience comes from bad judgment.”

Hagen returned to the podium and invited all the recipients of scholarship awards and grants to stand up as he called their names.  The college scholarships and grants came to a total of $7,304,776, the Dollars for Scholars scholarships total was $68,250, Kiwanis scholarships $16,500, and the local community and private scholarships summed up to $85,167.64.

Hagen then had all the brave individuals stand and be noted for their decision to go into the military and represent America.  He also introduced three-consecutive-term Class President Hilary Barlow and invited her to the stage.

Barlow started by stating that the past four years spent in high school and the past 2,888 blocks spent in class were all just numbers.  She said she stood on stage with pride in her class, pride in her school, and pride in herself.  She explained how this year’s graduating class was truly, the “best year ever”.

Superintendent Michael Delahanty approached the stage and stated in a humorous tone that all he had to say tonight was what he had found by using the “cut and paste” method that Valedictorian Donovan had mentioned earlier.  Pamela R. Berry and Patricia Corbett approached the stage for the presentation of diplomas.  Names were called as students rose from their seats, retrieved their diplomas, and strutted down the ramp, taking a picture before being seated.

After all the diplomas had been given to their respective graduates, Class President Barlow returned to the stage and asked all of her fellow graduates to take hold of their tassels, and move them from the left to the right.  The class threw their caps in the air as voices of jubilance raced through the air.  Parents, families, and friends came running onto the field to congratulate their loved ones as fireworks illuminated the sky.

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Boys and Girls Club Kindergarten Graduation

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem recently held their kindergarten graduation to a packed house of excited parents, grandparents and friends.  The room was tastefully decorated with balloons, and blue hats with tassels decorated the chairs and signs with student names all over the walls.  Forty-four graduates marched in to “Pomp and Circumstance”.  There was much eye contact from the students searching for their parents, many cameras going off catching every detail and occasional waves to parents in the audience.  After the “Pledge of Allegiance”, a song “We Love Our Flag” was sung with much enthusiasm and the National Anthem was sung with pride by all.  A most exciting moment came when the students sang “Colors” and smiled and laughed as they stood up and down when their color was announced.  A happy fun song for all!  The presentation of diplomas with swimming and fitness awards was a big highlight for these students, and parents were just as excited.  Next, the students sang “Friends Forever” and proceeded to march out with the excitement of going to the next grade in the fall.  Good job students and good luck in First Grade!

Singing “We Love Our Flag”

David Burke

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