Veterans make impact on high school students

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jefferson S. Heiland
  • 103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
A seven-member panel of veterans visited Modern World History and Civics students at Enrico Fermi High School in Enfield, Conn. Nov. 10, 2009, to answer questions and share their military experiences in an effort to raise awareness and appreciation relative to the Veterans' Day holiday.

Col. Fred Miclon, vice commander, 103rd Airlift Wing, arranged and coordinated the event with the help of Master Sgt. Mike Craddy, quality assurance inspector, 103rd Maintenance Group. The event, in its second year, featured a moderated panel discussion and a question and answer period where the panel members talked about their experience in the military and what it is like to be a veteran.

According to Miclon, the event is similar to the "Take Your Child to Work Day," and provides another opportunity to create an enriching educational experience for our nation's daughters and sons and is designed to raise student awareness of veterans and what they have sacrificed and experienced in their service to our nation.

"Whether it is a WWII, Korea or Vietnam veteran or a Cold War, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom veteran, this puts our nation's bravest together with the next 'greatest' generation - the future leaders of our country," Miclon said.

During the question and answer period, a student asked, "Do you guys think that this war is still worth fighting?"

"Absolutely. When I look at the flag, I think of a lot of good men, including many of my friends, [who] have paid for that in blood. I'm not going to dishonor their memory and cast away their dreams, the hopes and dreams of the world, because I don't feel like fighting anymore," said Sgt. David Mills, "C" Co., 1st Battalion 25th Marines.

"This is an all volunteer force. We're there because we want to be there, we're not there on a whim or because we have some kind of blood lust or hate for the enemy. We hate the enemy, but we hate war more. We want to come home but I'm not going to come home at the cost of saying to millions of Iraqi or Afghani civilians, 'give up your dreams of freedom,'" Mills said.

Another question asked was, "What's the best way for civilians to show their gratefulness?"

"I think, Veterans' Day is one day, Memorial Day is another where, so many times--they start about a week in advance--[they say] 'go shopping at so and so because we have a Veterans' Day sale or we have a Memorial Day sale.' Well, that's not what it's all about. Memorial Day is for honoring those that gave their life and Veterans' Day is to show appreciation to those who served and are serving and are still amongst us," said CW05 (retired) Kenneth D. Roach, a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross for service in Vietnam. "I think that if a community has a parade, go to the parade with reverence. If they have a ceremony, go to the ceremony with reverence. And just say thank you," he said.

"The objective of this event is for veterans to unite with our young Americans to pass on the story of their service to this great nation and their experiences, whether in peace or at war, while serving in our nation's armed forces. The intent is to pass on a legacy of service, duty, honor and commitment that all of our military services embody in their members. Not only will this instill a sense of patriotism in our children, it will also develop an appreciation for the sacrifices made by our veterans while serving their nation," Miclon said.

Erin Clark, a social studies teacher at Enrico Fermi High School, was a participant during the program and later confirmed that the objective was met.
"In talking to the students after the event, many were truly moved by the experience. It was important for the students to hear some of the sacrifices made by those who serve in our military. It was especially powerful to have such a diverse panel of veterans. It was important for the students to hear how veterans were received upon returning home from Vietnam and how drastically that experience differed from the experience of those veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. It was also powerful for our female students to see young women serving and performing a variety of fascinating jobs," she said.

Clark also expressed appreciation and passed on thanks from her students.

"I cannot fully express how powerful it is for the students to hear first-hand from those who have served our country. As social studies teachers, one of our most difficult and important challenges is to help students see the significance of history and current events. Nothing is more powerful than hearing how your individual lives have influenced and have been influenced by these events. Thank you for sharing your stories with our students, and thank you for your service to this wonderful nation," she said.