Photo by John Wilcox
TOMORROW'S HEROES: Junior ROTC student Dessiah Shelby, 15, raises his hand to ask a question Friday at the Brighton Marine Health Center.
In an event designed to encourage support for American warriors regardless of disputes over the politics behind the war, three service members spoke to Hub high schoolers Friday about their day-to-day duties, fears and hardships.
"I never knew what 156 degrees felt like until I was there," said Army National Guard Command Sgt. Kolleen Dickinson, a 51-year-old grandmother who served two tours in Iraq before returning home to Leominster in May.
Dickinson, who has served in the military for 33 years, spoke to students at the "From Baghdad to Brighton" forum hosted in honor of Veterans Day by U.S. Family Health Plan at the Brighton Marine Health Center.
"We wanted to give these students a sense of what life in the military is like," said Michael Bucell of U.S. Family Health Plan, which provides health care for veterans and the families of service members.
Air Force 1st Lt. Daniel Currie, 28, who holds a master's degree in mechanical engineering and works in program management at Hanscom Air Force Base, said he volunteered for the panel in hopes of "expressing a broader perspective of the war than what (the students) hear daily on the news."
"I spent my days in an office working on reconstruction and the building up of the Iraqi army and police force," said Currie, who served six months in Baghdad during the surge.
During the question-and-answer period, one junior cadet asked the veterans how they got over their fears in the war zone.
"One day at a time," Currie said. "You've got to stay focused on what you're there to accomplish."
Air Force Reserve Master Sgt. Mary Grasso, 46, who worked with a unit recovering wounded and sick troops from the battlefield, added that while there were certainly moments of extreme terror, she forced herself to recognize that "whatever happens, happens."