115 Amesbury Line Road
Haverhill, MA 01830
For Immediate Release
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Contact: Jessica Sacco
Email: [email protected]
U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Visits Whittier Tech for Memorial Day Presentation
HAVERHILL — As Whittier Tech students prepare for Memorial Day weekend, they were reminded of the significance of the holiday at a presentation this week led by retired U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Mike Devin — a speaker for the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes program.
A nonprofit organization, Massachusetts Fallen Heroes honors soldiers from the state who have been killed in combat and supports their Gold Star families. Since 9/11, 286 soldiers from Massachusetts have lost their lives, including five from Haverhill and one graduate from Whittier Tech, Evan O’Neill, who died at age 19 in 2003, fighting in Afghanistan.
Principal Chris Laganas welcomed students and staff to the assembly in the gymnasium on Monday, May 21. Whittier’s chorus sang, “The Star Spangled Banner” and a moving video leading up to Devin’s speech showed Gold Star family members talking about their loved ones and the recognition they deserve.
“Amid the barbecues, take a moment to reflect upon those who sacrificed their lives for our country,” Devin told students. “Take a moment to look up and think about Pvt. First Class Evan O’Neill who sat in this same gym.”
Gathered together on the bleachers, more than half of Whittier’s 1,300 students raised their hands when asked if they had a family member who has served in the military. “If your family member made it home, they were lucky,” Devin said.
As part of his presentation to Whittier, Devin shared how he enlisted in the Marine Corps after college when he saw members honor his dad at his funeral.
“It was a sense of camaraderie I wanted to be part of,” he said.
The day before he shipped out to Afghanistan he received news that one of his close friends had stepped on a roadside bomb and lost both of his legs. He was dispatched to the same location, and eventually stepped on an improvised explosive device himself, but luckily it did not detonate.
He spent a year in Afghanistan training Afghan soldiers, followed by four years in Mexico where he trained infantry to fight the drug cartels.
After the assembly, students said they appreciated the overall message and several approached Devin to shake his hand.
“I thought it was nice the way he mentioned Evan O’Neill, and how he told us to enjoy the day, but thank everyone we see who served, to just say thank you for their service,” said freshman Keily Martinez, of Haverhill. “I also liked hearing how the Gold Star families support each other.”
Members of Whittier’s Student Government, led by advisers James Donahue, Jr. and Andrew Cherouvis, brought the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes program to Whittier.