Friday, September 15, 2017

American Legion Auxiliary hosts Naturalization Ceremony funded by grant in honor of National Day of Service and Remembrance by Lorraine Glowczak

*Due to technical layout difficulties, the print version was published in error. This is the correct version. We apologize for the error.

American Legion Auxiliary Unit 148 in Windham, received a $1,000 grant through the American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters and funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service to establish a remembrance celebration to commemorate 9/11. 
In alignment with and observance of the National Day of Service and Remembrance (established in 2009), the Auxiliary hosted a Naturalization Ceremony on Monday, September 11 at 10 a.m. at Windham High School. The ceremony was attended by many members of the community and high school and middle school students, who witnessed 37 immigrants from 22 countries, become American citizens. 

Also in attendance were public figures that included but not limited to, Senator Bill Diamond, Town Manager, Tony Plante and the National Auxiliary President, Diane Duscheck from Wisconsin. 

The success of Monday’s ceremonial event was the result of innovative and creative thinking by members of the Auxiliary and the grant writing abilities of Windham Auxiliary President, Pam Whynot and Vice President, Michelle Libby. 

Anna McGuckin from Russia
The grant was recognized by the National Auxiliary as unique, due to the inclusion of many community members, to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The requirements were to remember 9/11 in a unique way, have a teaching component and have the event during the week of 9/11. 

“Our grant was very unique out of the other grants,” explained Whynot. “The Naturalization Ceremony was a unique idea from us [because] it involved many groups of the community and we had lots of people volunteering their time and service to us. We fit all their [the National Auxiliary’s] requirements into this idea.”

The Naturalization Ceremony not only included many volunteer members of the community but  special guests speakers were selected to share their memories and experiences of that fateful day 16 years ago. The speakers included Steve Hall, a Portland and Windham firefighter, as well as retired Lieutenant Colonel, Wally Clark originally from Calais, but now resides in Windham.

Hall, who lost many of his firefighting friends in the fallen World Trade Center, was called to New York a week after the tragedy. “I was asked to attend the funerals of my fellow firefighters,” Hall began, choking back tears. “I was asked to attend because the NYC firefighters who were still alive were working the pile. Sometimes I attended three or four funerals in a day. After a month, I lost count of how many funerals I attended.”

Clark was starting his second day working at the Pentagon away from his office near Arlington Cemetery, when he was notified of the attacks. “During the morning session, we were called out of a briefing and told that the pentagon had been hit and we were on lock down,” Clark said. “We were finally released to go home late in the afternoon. As I drove home, I could see smoking coming out of the Pentagon. It was a mess.”

There were 125 pentagon staff that died that day. 

Nidhal Alshammaa from Iraq
Keynote speaker, the Honorable Charles Cragin, who served as under-secretary of the Department of Defense during the time of the attack, spoke to the celebration of citizenship, noting that when tragedy occurs the best of American social responsibility takes place; also noting the community efforts of service in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, as a result of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. 

The stories shared by these men honored firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency medical personnel, military members and veterans of the armed forces; while sharing ideals of good citizenship, peace and security to all, especially to the high school students and new citizens alike.

Upon the conclusion of the ceremony, that ended with the presentation of certificates to the new Americans, the song “God Bless the USA” sung by the Windham Chamber Singers and the closing remarks by Kurt Pelletier, Immigration Services Officer, happiness, joy and celebration filled the auditorium as the new Americans embraced their citizenship.

“I am so moved by how the new citizens want to be a citizen of America and how hard they work to make this happen,” stated Whynot. “When their families and friends come to cheer them on, you know that this is the most important day of their lives. It makes me very happy to be a part of this day for them.” 

This special and unique Naturalization Ceremony presented the bravery involved in being an American, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice 16 years ago. And as Christopher Howell, Windham High School Principal added in his welcoming remarks to the new Americans, “Everyone has a story. One day, you will share your story of bravery that it took to become an American. You too, will leave a legacy with the generations that come after you.”

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