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Malden High administrator talks about Iraq War experiences at school’s Memorial Day observance

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House Principal Jayson Payeur had first-hand experience in one of longest wars in U.S. history

  The Sept. 11 attacks changed history forever and touched everyone’s lives, worldwide.

  Malden High’s Jenkins House Principal Jayson Payeur knows this first-hand.

   As a member of the U.S. Army Cavalry Scout Unit, Payeur was on the front lines of the Enduring Freedom war between the United States and Iraq and saw many overwhelming tragedies of war. He also served with soldiers that were killed in action.

    “It was a constant mix of emotions. We were always on edge and a lot of times we were petrified,” Payeur, who has been an educator and administrator in the Malden schools for nearly 10 years, told a group of about 600 students at a Memorial Day assembly Thursday.

    The event was organized by Malden High History Department Head Kerry Veritas. It included presentations by students, an address by Kevin Jarvis, Malden Veterans Services Coordinator and remarks by Malden Mayor Gary Christenson and Malden High Principal Chris Mastrangelo.

   The day also included a joint performance by the Malden High Band and the MHS Choral Arts, a first in school history, according to Choral Arts Director Todd Cole.

   Payeur’s talk was the keynote address. He graduated from Springfield College in May 2001 and enlisted through the Army’s Delayed Entry Program in July 2001 as planned.

    Then 9/11 hit on September 11, 2001 when America was attacked in New York City and Washington D.C. by terrorists.

     “I had to report October 15, 2001 and we were told then to be ready for anything,” Payeur said. He detailed how he underwent extensive training at Fort Benning and prepared as a weapons and scout specialist, guaranteeing he would be on the front lines of any battle.

   “My dad was a Vietnam War veteran and he sort of cringed when he heard I would be in the Scout Unit. He knew I would be on the front line.” Payeur said.

    In April 2002, he was one of the first troops landing in Iraq, after assembling in Kuwait. “We were right in Ramadi to start, right in the middle of an urban area that was not a great place to be,” Payeur said, describing a few harrowing experiences. “It was literally life or death. That is what war is. That is what war means.”

    All told, Payeur spent a year in Iraq, receiving a field promotion to Sergeant and then later, to Staff Sergeant.

    He then finished four more years of military service before entering the field of education.

    “It was a memorable experience, of course, and certainly life-changing,” Payeur told his young audience.

    On Monday, Memorial Day, he will join millions of Americans nationwide. Payeur said he will join in remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, including some of his own comrades in Iraq.

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Jayson Payeur addresses students at Memorial Day assembly. (Advocate Photo)
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Malden High students listen at the Memorial Day assembly.

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