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Beyond the uniform: Veteran’s Day and the unseen heroes among us

Math teacher Doug Boomer, a veteran from the marines. Credit: Mary Sellers Conley

Holding both historical and emotional importance, Nov. 11 allows people across the nation to understand the importance of honoring the veterans in our community. Veteran’s Day, celebrated on Nov. 11, commemorates the signing of the armistice that concluded World War I. Providing the nation with a time to pause and reflect on the immense sacrifices made by brave men and women, the holiday is vital to giving tribute to the men and women that have served our country over the years.

By providing simple gestures, such as thank you cards, giving veterans time to tell their story, and volunteering at organizations that aid veterans, citizens can help show respect and gratitude. It is additionally important to honor and acknowledge members and relatives of our very own Westminster faculty who have served and protected our country. Some of these members include Mr. Doug Boomer, Upper School math teacher, Ms. Toni Boyd, Vice President of Westminster’s Finance and Operations, and Mr. James Shields Matthew IV, cousin to Ms. Lina Ellis, Upper School math teacher. 

Boomer served as a captain in the United States Marine Corps from 1987 to 1991. Originally, he started out in college as an engineer, working on planes for Delta. However, a few of his friends encouraged him to begin flying, sparking his interest in aviation and the Marine Corps. 

“I had lived a very active life at that point, and wasn’t ready for a sedentary life. I felt like the military would provide me with an opportunity to lead an active life,” said Boomer. 

While fighting for their lives together, these soldiers form powerful bonds after experiencing some of the most difficult moments of their careers. These tough moments also happen to be the most memorable ones, as Boomer fondly recalls the power of many people pulling together to survive. 

“The most impactful memories were the disappointments and the growing up after you have to suffer something like that,” Boomer said. 

Facing life-or-death situations daily, members of the Marine Corps are forced to mature quickly, or else they would not be able to get through such harrowing experiences. 

“The bonds that you make there, just trying to get through something, are so important and you cannot do it alone,” Boomer said, explaining how important it is to find a strong community while serving.

Boyd shares this same experience.

 “I remember how much I appreciated and made very close friends with my colleagues that I’m still in touch with because we’ve been through so much together,” says Boyd.

Boyd was a staff sergeant from 1986 to 1995, and also served as a drill, marksmanship, and hand to hand combat instructor. 

The reason that she was led into the military was because she could not afford to go to college. Boyd touches on the financial benefits of the military, and stands with 75% of all enlistees who did so for educational benefits.  

Boyd was also interested in challenging herself in her workplace, a reason that she chose to pursue a career in the Marine Corps. As a captain, she was able to overcome these challenges and persevere. 

However, these challenges came with downsides.

 “There were lots of times where I questioned ‘could I do this?’, and then eventually realized I could,” said Boyd. 

Overcoming these challenges were some of the most defining moments in Boyd’s career, and making these bonds with her coworkers provided her with a strong, supportive community. This supportive community comes with many great leaders providing assistance to early Marines. 

One of these leaders is a person that Boyd admires fondly. She asked for advice on if she made the right decision about the career choice, and his response changed Boyd’s life. 

“He said, ‘You made the right decision because it is a decision that you made. Now go make it right.’ Ever since then, every decision that I’ve made, I’ve made it right,” states Boyd. 

James Shields Matthew IV, a Georgia Tech graduate from Jackson, Tennessee who participated in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), graduated with a masters in Nuclear Engineering. Matthew has served in Iraq, Hawaii, and Kansas. 

 “I was deployed to Iraq May 2007 to June 2008 to serve as the executive officer for the Director Of the Iraq Transition Assistance Office (ITAO). As executive officer, I served as the staff officer, aide, engineer, and personal security for Engineer Major General Jim Snyder,” said Matthew. 

The purpose of ITAO was to improve the national infrastructure of Iraq. They monitored the water, electrical, oil, and medical facility projects. They often received rocket fire into the area in which they worked, emphasizing the danger of their position.

 “The most impactful moments from the military were the disappointments,” states Boomer. “There is a growing up that has to take place after suffering something like that.”

Edited by Cece Schrader

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