Reflections on the Veterans’ Day Assembly

Helaina and Lowell on stage

At assembly on Tuesday, November 3rd, the Upper School students had the privilege to hear from a veteran, Sergeant Helaina Lake of Livermore Falls, Maine, who had fought in the Afghanistan. She told us her story from growing up in Livermore Falls, through being in high school, her deployment to Afghanistan, and her recent completion in a Tough Mudder.  She told us her story in the form of an interview with Lowell, whom she has known for her whole life, as this was her first experience speaking in public.

HelainaSergeant Lake told us how as a senior in high school, she realized she was not emotionally or mentally ready for college, so instead she wanted to join the armed forces. One of the most surprising things she said is that she volunteered for deployment in Afghanistan. As a new mother, she had not been deployed, but she decided to volunteer because as a soldier she wanted to experience war herself. This was shocking for students because she was a woman who actually wanted to risk her life at war. During her time in the service, she was the leader of her squad group consisting of all men. She explained how she had to participate in all of the pranks that the guys in her group wanted to do in order to become “one of the guys”. Unfortunately, many of them died, which made her experience with them even more memorable.

Helaina in wheelchairWe were very interested with how she served in the war and what she did. We thought it was fascinating how she wanted the challenge of serving as close to the front line as possible, where eventually she was severely wounded in an explosion. After her injury, she was told she would never be able to walk again. Her determination and need to be able to play with her son in the yard pushed her through 41 surgeries. She is now walking great, even walking in heels at the assembly! She also told us of the Tough Mudder she did recently in memory of the members of her squad who had died.  It was amazing to us that she was once a woman who was told she would never walk again, but through her determination, she was able to participate in a Tough Mudder!

The biggest take away for us and most of the other Upper School students was the drive and determination she exhibited during the war and after during her healing process. She is an inspiration to all of us and her story is a something that everyone should have the privilege to hear.

Here is a link to the Channel Six News Story of Sergeant Lake’s homecoming.