Koolen, Gardner Share Military Experiences in Veterans’ Day Service

Andover honored members of its community who have served in the military in the school’s annual observance of Veterans Day last Thursday.

During the service, Marc Koolen, Instructor in Biology and former Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, spoke about his experiences in the military during the Vietnam War.

After being drafted in 1968, Koolen was presented with two choices. He could either immediately join the army as a private, or enroll in the Recruit Training Command (RTC) while in college, joining the military after graduation as an officer.

He chose to enroll in the RTC, but the program interfered with his schoolwork and social life. He said that he found himself consumed by thoughts of the war.

“I was training to become a lieutenant in the infantry during a war that was driving a wedge through the country,” Koolen said in his speech.

After graduating from St. Lawrence College, Koolen had difficulty finding a job because employers were reluctant to hire military recruits. He eventually found a position as an on-call substitute teacher and then served one year of active duty in Georgia. He also spent eight years in the Reserves and joined the National Guard before being honorably discharged in 1977.

He said that compared to the 60s, the public’s attitude towards members of the military has become more supportive. “The military has a different purpose than they used to. When there’s a new war, it’s because there’s suffering going on–people are suffering and we’re going out to try to make the suffering end,” he said in an interview with The Phillipian.

Reverend Anne Gardner, Director of Spiritual and Religious Life, began the service by speaking about the personal importance of Veterans Day for her.

“To me, [the Veterans Day service] is one of the favorite things I do here on campus. It’s a personal nerve–the fact that my dad spent his entire career in the military, that I grew up in the same kind of culture. I think the people who choose to live their life this way are admirable, and I want that to be recognized,” she said.

Dana Seero ’71, former Captain in the U.S. Army, then read the President’s Proclamation, a statement issued by President Barack Obama on November 7 honoring those who serve the country in the armed forces.

Head of School John Palfrey said, “I think [the service] was an introduction to members [of our community] who have served in the military, and it’s an important marker of the service they have provided. Hearing Mr. Koolen provide his personal account was a moving and an important reminder of sacrifices people make, no matter the type of service in the military they take on.”

“I thought it was extremely important to recognize those who served because giving the ultimate sacrifice for one’s country is what America’s all about,” said Anirudh Murali ’16. “As someone who wants to be in the military myself, it means a lot to me. It shows how even at a high school, people care about what those who are out there and deployed are doing for us,”

On Monday, Paresky Commons served red, white and blue cupcakes in honor of Veterans Day. Members of the Andover community also signed cards for Andover alumni who are currently enrolled in military academies.

According to Gardner, the school’s Veterans Day services have traditionally featured faculty speakers who share their experiences in the military. Gardner believes that it is beneficial for students to hear about military service from their teachers.

She said, “I want students to know people who are here in their community… have chosen [service in the military] to live out their version of ‘Non Sibi’–it’s a primary tenet of [our] community.” She added that it is important for students to be aware of service members’ “dedication to something that’s very selfless and at times very dangerous.”