'A vacation from all the stares'
When Michael Liscomb and his family went to camp in 2017, no one was asking his wife or his children what happened to him.
The other spouses and children were in military families, so they didn't stare at the device that replaced the left leg he lost in 2017. The leg got slammed between a Humvee and a pickup truck in 2008, during Liscomb's tour of duty in Iraq.
Several operations followed, then the infection that claimed his leg.
Those other families at the Travis Mills Foundation camp understood, Liscomb said. "It's a vacation from all the stares," he told Wiscasset Middle High School students and staff in Stover Auditorium Friday.
The school and American Legion Post 54 of Wiscasset donated a combined $400 to the foundation. Staff and students raised $277 in a recent McDonald's night. The student council added $23 to make an even $300, and the Legion post gave $100, speakers at the afternoon assembly explained.
Liscomb, an ambassador for the foundation, said he did not have words to describe what it meant to him when his family got to see him kayaking without anyone's help, thanks to adaptive equipment. At the camp, everyone is used to seeing military wounds, and has their own story, he said.
"Thank you, guys. What you did, the money you donated, it's definitely going to help," he told the audience. When he finished, students and staff applauded and rose to their feet.
"It meant a lot to see that," the Skowhegan man said in the lobby afterward. “And it definitely shows that military stuff means a lot to the teachers here in Wiscasset and the students.”
The fundraising and the show of support also impressed Post Commander William Cossette Jr. “It was great to see the young people doing this. The kids have worked so hard. So many young people don’t have any idea what’s going on with veterans.”
Student Council President Matt Chapman emceed the assembly. He and fellow student council members Chris Loyola and Caleb Gabriele stood feet from Liscomb for his speech. Then they all observed Cossette’s explaining to the audience a display honoring prisoners of war or those missing in action: A candle for hope, the table's small size reflecting one person against their oppressors, a rose for blood the POW/MIA may have shed, a lemon slice representing bitter pain, an inverted glass for their absence, and a red ribbon for the determination to account for them.
"It almost brought a tear to my eye, for how much veterans have done for our country," Chapman said after the assembly about Cossette's and Liscomb's remarks. “Every time I meet a veteran, I always thank them for their service. They deserve it for putting their life on the line, in guaranteeing our freedom.”
Near the assembly’s close, Chapman, on the student council’s behalf, praised first-year WMHS Principal Charles Lomonte for his work with the student council. The senior said he has never seen a principal as involved with it. “He’s heard our voices a lot.”
What did the recognition mean to Lomonte? “Everything,” because it came from the students, he commented later.
Student Council Advisor Deb Pooler said later, the kindness and responsibility Chapman showed that day was an example of why she loves her job: “The students.”