Nashua North celebrates veterans with flag ceremony

Telegraph photo by MATHEW PLAMONDON Nashua High School North JROTC Deputy Commander Jessica Kaplafka speaks to the National Honor Society students, members of the military and staff present during the Tuesday Memorial Day Flag Ceremony about her enlistment in the military.

NASHUA – Nashua High School North’s chapter of National Honor Society hosted a Memorial Day Flag Ceremony Tuesday morning to recognize and honor those who have served the country.

National Honor Society President Cadet Col. Adam Landry began the day with a speech to commemorate those who died while serving. He stood next to a small table that symbolized those who never came home from war.

He said he and other attendees were not only there to pay tribute, but to recognize heroes who have served, who are serving or who will serve.

Later, Nashua High School North Principal Nate Burns read a statement. “Each year, we come together to recognize the men and women who have dedicated their lives by serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Their sacrifices protect not only our country but the freedoms that we have been afforded,” Burns read.

Statements were read on behalf of U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster and U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, both D-N.H., who could not be in attendance.

Telegraph photo by MATHEW PLAMONDON U.S. Army veteran Lt. Col. Dave Kiser speaks about the importance of recognizing Memorial Day and the soldiers who lost their lives defending the country, Tuesday during the Nashua High School North Memorial Day Flag Ceremony.

“On Memorial Day, it is especially important that we pause and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” Kuster wrote.

“On Memorial Day, we remember the great individuals who gave their lives to give all of us the opportunity to be free, to work hard to pursue our dreams of peace and prosperity,” Hassan stated.

Lt. Col. Dave Kiser served as the keynote speaker for the day. While there were multiple

reasons why Kiser joined the U.S. Army, he shared that when he was growing up, all the adults he knew were veterans of World War II.

“You couldn’t get away from it anywhere,” Kiser said.

Telegraph photo by MATHEW PLAMONDON Nashua High School North National Honor Society President Adam Landry opens the Tuesday Memorial Day Flag Ceremony.

Kiser gave his own perspective on Memorial Day.

“We need to celebrate Memorial Day as a day of remembrance,” Kiser said. “For so many citizens, our holidays have lost their meaning, becoming highly merchandised, and are just another day off.”

He said people could honor veterans by learning more about history and the wars fought.

“You’ll discover extraordinary victories and terrible defeats, in which our citizens and often non-citizens, gave their lives, not just for the country, but more importantly, for us,” Kiser said.

He added, “Never forget that all who die in times of conflict are sons and daughters of someone. Our parents themselves, our spouses, or someone else. It doesn’t matter whether they’re friendly or our foes. They’re all equal and deserve respect.”

Nashua North AFJROTC Deputy Commander Jessica Kaplafka said it takes incredible courage to do “what you’ve done or are planning to do.”

Kaplafka herself will pursue her passion of flying helicopters in the U.S. Army. She was recently awarded a Warrant Officer Flight Training slot upon graduation.

Kaplafka said for most of her life, she’s always dreamed of joining the military, but she wasn’t sure which path to take after graduation.

“Take a chance. Take the road less traveled, and serve for something greater than yourself,” Kaplafka said. “You’ll be proud of your choices.”

Kaplafka told The Telegraph, “I am most excited that I am excited about this.” She said that for her, college was always something she felt she was supposed to do, but she wanted to fly.

“I’m just ecstatic that I’m going to be doing something with my life that I am thrilled to be doing. I adore flying,” Kaplafka said.

Kaplafka was able to spend last summer in a program sponsored by the Air Force to earn her private pilot’s license.

“It was so much fun – I love being up in the clouds,” Kaplafka said. “I’m really excited to be flying for the military.”

Nashua High School North’s Maj. Brian Newton will be swearing Kaplafka into the Army this week. From there, Kaplafka said she will be going to basic training as every soldier does. Then, she will be participating in a Warrant Officers gentleman’s course. From there, she will be heading out for flight training.

Kaplafka said she will be flying either utility or transport helicopters. She said she is incredibly grateful for many people, including Maj. Brian Newton, Master Sgt. Nick Ellis, her recruiters, and her fellow cadets.

She said she wished she had joined the AFJROTC program when she was a freshman, as opposed to her junior year. She noted that the cadets have been some of her greatest friends in school.

“I’m always proud to be in the uniform, to be going out to events. It’s a close knit family,” Kaplafka said.

Kaplafka’s Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Ron Anzalone was also in attendance Monday.

Anzalone said across the country, approximately 120 people were selected for Warrant Officer Training School, and Kaplafka was only one of two high school students chosen.

Anzalone said of Kaplafka, “She already has the ability and has already demonstrated and exemplified why she was selected.”

He added, “She’s willing to serve. She’s willing to be a part of something bigger than herself. Because of that, we want to recognize Jessica for outstanding character and selfless courage in her decision to be apart of our family.”

All proceeds from Monday’s event went to support Operation Care for Troops, which sends more than 100,000 packages every year to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with items such as food, toiletries and letters.

The National Honor Society presented a check $2,500 check to Operation Care for Troops during the ceremony.