Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Nov
  • 14

Students pay tribute to fallen soldier

Posted By November 14, 2014 | 3:36 pm | Lead Story #3
Photo by William T. Clew

Leroy Boughton, left, an Air Force veteran of the Korean Conflict, and Thomas Keegan, former U.S. Naval Reservist, attend Veteran’s Day activities at St. Bernadette’s. Inset at left shows cards and poppies made for veterans in attendance.
Photo by William T. Clew Leroy Boughton, left, an Air Force veteran of the Korean Conflict, and Thomas Keegan, former U.S. Naval Reservist, attend Veteran’s Day activities at St. Bernadette’s. Inset at left shows cards and poppies made for veterans in attendance.

By William T. Clew

NORTHBOROUGH – St. Bernadette Elementary School paid tribute Wednesday to a Northborough soldier who was killed in action in Afghanistan and to all veterans who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
Students Amrita Kuma, Alex Henriques, Sarah Gustafson and Lucas Silva, placed a wreath on stage in the school auditorium to honor U.S. Army Specialist Brian K. Arsenault, 28, the nephew of two St. Bernadette teachers, who was killed in September in fighting in Ghazni, Afghanistan.
Specialist Arsenault, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for valor and the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in combat.
The wreath presentation was part of the school’s annual Veterans Day program, in which the students, faculty and staff honor veterans with songs and ceremony.
One of those veterans was Leroy Boughton, 86, who was attending the school program with Thomas Keegan, himself a former Naval Reservist. Mr. Keegan’s wife Anne teaches at St. Bernadette. Mr. Boughton is married to Mr. Keegan’s cousin. He was the oldest of several veterans who attended the program Wednesday.
He was stationed in Japan with the United States Air Force (USAF) as part of the occupation forces after World War II, and on June 25, 1950, he was celebrating his birthday.
He said his celebration was cut short when he was ordered to return to his base. The North Koreans that day had launched a full-scale attack on South Korea and the United States and other United Nations forces went to war.
Soon, Mr. Boughton found himself with his unit in Korea. Their first job was to help evacuate an Australian Air Force base, he said. While there, he said, he saw a train carrying dead and wounded Republic of Korea (ROK) Army troops back from the battle zone.
Later he and his unit were at a forward USAF base where P51 Mustangs, a World War II fighter-bomber, were attacking North Korean troops. Mr. Boughton said they were so close to the front lines that he and others at the base could sometimes see the planes dropping bombs and strafing the enemy.
They also were close enough so that the North Koreans could hit the base with mortar fire. He said he and others dug holes in the ground in their tents and covered them and their sleeping bags with straw so they were below the level of the ground surface when the mortar rounds hit. He said he sometimes awoke to find holes in the tent from shrapnel.
He spent two winters in Korea, he said, as the war surged back and forth. The North Koreans nearly pushed the Allied forces out of the country. Then U.S. and U.N. forces pushed the North Koreans back to the Yalu River at the border with China. Then the Chinese attacked, driving the U.S. and U.N. forces back into South Korea, before they were forced to retreat back unto North Korea.
The cease fire took place in July 1953, but a peace agreement never was signed. But by the time the fighting ended, Mr. Boughton was back home in the United States, he said.
Deborah O’Neil, principal, and Father Ronald G. Falco, pastor of St. Bernadette Parish, welcomed the veterans, guests and students. Her father was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II. Father Falco’s father was an Army veteran of World War II who received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart in combat in Europe.
Students Aarush Patnala, Lauren Tran, Jeevan Anand, Austin Salmon, Morgan and Maanasi Bagepalli, made up the detail that posted the colors – the Stars and Stripes, the state flag and the papal flag – at the start of the program and retired them at the end.
Kindergarteners sang “Yankee Doodle,” 1st- and 2nd-graders sang “This Land is Your Land,” 3rd- and 4th-graders sang “America the Beautiful,” 4th-graders did a choral reading titled “The Pride of Our Country,” 5th- and 6th-graders sang “God Bless the USA” and 7th- and 8th-graders sang “A Tribute to the Armed Forces,” consisting the five service songs honoring the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. As each of the songs was sung, veterans of that service stood to be recognized. After the students sang “Thank You, Soldiers,” they passed out poppies, drawings and cards they had made to each of the veterans.
State Rep. Harold P. Naughton Jr., whose legislative district includes part of Northborough, praised the students.
“It’s wonderful for the kids to step up and do this,” he said. “It is an important recognition of the contributions of the veterans. They are aware of the sacrifices that came before. It is a great example of the values at the core of St. Bernadette.”
Rep. Naughton, a major in the U.S. Army Reserve, served in Iraq in 2005-06 and received a Combat Action Badge. He also served in Afghanistan in 2011-12 and received a Bronze Star for Meritorious Service.