Cheverus High School in Portland has a long history of honoring veterans through prayer, recognition, and service. The school has also welcomed veterans to come and share their experiences with students. One such visit inspired a schoolwide fundraiser during Maine Catholic Schools Week (Jan. 26 to Feb. 1).
In November, Sergeant Craig Grossi, a former Marine and Cape Elizabeth resident, brought his dog, Fred, to Cheverus for a special presentation. Sergeant Grossi is the author of Craig and Fred: A Marine, A Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other. The book details the incredible relationship between he and Fred, who he found while serving in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. In 2010, Sergeant Grossi was doing intelligence work for Marine RECON, the most elite fighters in the Corps. While on patrol, he spotted a young dog "with a big goofy head and little legs" who didn’t seem vicious or run in a pack like most strays they’d encountered. After eating a piece of beef jerky Craig offered, the dog began to follow him.
"Having Fred there and just knowing you could go over to him on your break, or whenever you had a quick second and give him a pet, a little piece of cheese or whatever you had in your pocket, your blood pressure would drop and you wouldn’t be so worried about the next attack or what you had to do later," Sergeant Grossi said.
A beautiful, life-changing friendship was forged. One that helped Sergeant Grossi as he recovered from post-traumatic stress.
After hearing the presentation, Cheverus students, who also had read the book, decided to join the effort of helping veterans heal from the trauma of war.
Last week, students held “dress down days” during which they could dress casually in exchange for a donation, wrote letters and made cards for servicemen and servicewomen, and held the “Concert for a Cause,” featuring Fr. Bob Pecoraro, SJ, and the Ignatian Formation, a band made up of talented musicians from the Cheverus community.
It total, $4,405.75 was raised with all proceeds going to the Semper Fi Fund, an organization dedicated to providing immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to combat wounded, critically ill, and catastrophically injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces as well as their families. The organization also funds career assistance, an integrative wellness program, counseling, and much more. For more information about or to donate to the Semper Fi Fund, visit www.semperfifund.org.