A salute to Mr. Spencer and Mr. Gallagher on Veterans Day
Today, our nation honors the men and women of America who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. As citizens, we express our gratitude towards their noble efforts to protect our country, and we especially thank the military veterans whom we know personally.
Lampeter-Strasburg High School’s very own principal, Mr. Eric Spencer, served for eight years in the U.S. Air Force as a flight EMT, or an aircraft paramedic during the Persian Gulf War. Inspired by his father, older brother, cousins, and countless other relatives who had previously served in the military, Spencer felt a strong sense of duty to follow in their footsteps. He was particularly motivated to join the Air Force branch by his brother, to whom he had grown close.
Although basic military training is notorious for its rigor and shock factor, the camp environment was not an adverse one for Spencer. Because his father was a drill sergeant, he was already accustomed to barking and shouting from drill instructors, organized schedules, bedroom checks, and strict adherence to the rules of the establishment. In addition, his athletic background in basketball and other sports provided him with the capacity to meet the physical demands of his training.
Spencer’s basic training was located in Texas, from which he proceeded to Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York. Later, he transferred to the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, New York.
As a helicopter and airplane medic, Spencer was attached to a fighter squad, acting as a personal medic for the pilots, whose health and survival were vitally important. He became good buddies with the pilots, and was rather upset to leave his friends when he was pulled from his squadron to finish his student teaching work at home.
L-S School District has another military veteran in the building: longtime Earth Science teacher and Science Department Head Mr. Jeffrey Gallagher. Serving in the U.S. Army during a time of peace, he was specifically assigned as a demolition expert. In other words, he practiced blowing up tanks, making terrain obstacles such as craters, and imploding architectural structures.
Living his earlier years in a poor area, Gallagher worked for a construction company and from being there heard about combat engineers in the Armed Forces. Attempting to escape the grief of poverty, he joined the Army and began his training at Fort Leonard Wood, in Missouri, where he underwent intense physical activity and learned the trade and customs of the military. He then advanced to Fort Campbell in Kentucky, headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division.
Gallagher distinctly remembers the fun of rappelling from helicopters and spending a month in Florida playing war games with his mates. He stayed in touch with family, coming home a few times given that military personnel could fly at low costs.
Most notably, Gallagher reflects on his period spent in the Armed Forces as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It deterred him from causing trouble at home, fueled his patriotism, and taught him discipline. Before his time in the Army, he hadn’t even considered going to college. Gallagher’s service gave him a new perspective on his future and a profound respect for our country.
This Veterans Day, we celebrate the courage exhibited by both of these individuals and all other soldiers who served in our nation’s protective forces. Let’s dedicate our appreciation to those who have sacrificed their lives in contribution to the safety of America.
--Jacky Kirchner, LSNews.org Features Editor