Monday, February 27, 2006


I entered the staff workroom and encountered a retired teacher, whom I knew, mentoring an ROTC instructor. After greeting pleasantries, she introduced me to Air Force Lieutenant Colonel _____. After back and forth "nice to meet you" responses, I suggested to him that if he needed a testimony to potential recruits, please let me know. I explained why I was the right person by giving him a brief sketch of my active duty years in the 1960's and my service as a "boots on the ground" soldier in Vietnam. After he listened, he asked "will today work for you?" We compared schedules and my planning period coincided with his class of high school juniors so I accepted his invitation to address the class.

When I arrived, the ROTC cadets were outdoors for drill and inspections so the Colonel and I talked further about our backgrounds and experiences. The cadets returned to the classroom and took their seats. The Colonel spoke to them, introduced me, and then moved to the rear of the class. I moved to the front, thanked the Colonel, and said this to the class:

"I just want to let you know how impressed I am when I see you in the school hallways or in my classroom dressed in your uniform. You are smartly dressed with clean and pressed uniform, decoration ribbons, shined shoes, and you look sharp. It makes me feel so good about you. One reason I feel that way is because there was a period in my life when I wore a uniform and it was a great three-years of active duty I'll never forget. The places I went, the things I did, the people I met, and the assignments I participated were amazing. The training and personal growth I experienced propelled me through college and into life after my volunteer military service."

Their attention was riveted on my every word, every voice inflection, and my body language as I moved slowly across the front of the class to look closely into each face as I spoke. I did not get into gory details of specific incidences of Infantry combat. I'm too smart for that type distasteful talk. I heard enough of talk of hero details from WWII veterans who could talk endlessly and bore me in one minute. One's war medals should say enough.

I continued: "If you choose military service, you can expect to meet good people from all across the great country and work as a team with them. You can expect to go to far away places and receive unbelievable training. You can serve on enormous ships, awesome aircraft, powerful weapons systems, and learn state of the art technology or be a part of military intelligence. You will learn "how to follow" as well as "how to lead" people." I told them about "my experiences parachuting from airplanes like the Hercules C-130, Lockheed C-141 Starlifter, Bell UH-1 Helicopter at night and in daylight. I explained the Army Divisions I served, and the fort locations where I was stationed, and my tour of duty in Vietnam.

I concluded by answering a few questions about my rank, awards and war medals earned, and number of parachute jumps.

If you could have seen what I saw as I looked into the eyes and faces of these young people, you, like me, would be uplifted by this crop of young students. I departed that classroom feeling so good about the potential of these high school juniors. Our future is bright with developing young people like these.

The next time I subbed at that school the Colonel told me I was welcome anytime to address the other classes. I thanked him and indicated that perhaps it would work out.

Have a good day!


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