On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War. This war, the so called "Great War" and “War to End All Wars” was officially over. A year later, the day was commemorated as Armistice Day and would later be a legal federal holiday in the United States starting in 1938. It is because more wars would follow that Armistice Day would evolve into Veterans Day. This evolution allows for all Veterans of all wars be honored.
My Great-Grandfather’s WWI Draft Card
My Uncle John is Back Row, Far Left
However, the first person I remember ever discussing military service with was my Uncle, John Sickimich. My Uncle John served in the Navy during World War II. Uncle John was indeed part of the “Greatest Generation.” He was a man shaped by a Great Depression childhood and his military service in WWII. Another Uncle, Danny Carlton was a Vietnam Veteran. Although my Uncle John would answer any question asked, my Uncle Danny would never speak about his Vietnam experience. Just like the wars they fought in, their military experiences were dramatically different.
As a teacher, I have
over the years attempted to invite Veterans into my classroom and school to
speak to students. Within my career, I
have been honored to have Veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam
speak. At the beginning of my career,
WWII veterans were easy to get, however, over the years I had to make the
switch to Vietnam veterans. It saddens
me that we are losing so many members of this “Greatest Generation” daily. I am lucky to have as many speak as I
did. For the last 12 years my school has
coordinated a Vietnam Speaker Event for all 10th and 11th
grade students. This annual event has
been replicated at other schools with great success.
Vietnam Veteran Jack Deleshaw speaking to students
Medal of Honor Recipient Col. Joe Marm and Me
at the 2011 Vietnam Veteran Speaker Event.
I have worked with the same Vietnam Veteran’s group for many years. The Henry County wing of the Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association has always been good to my students, my school, and me. Each year, I have had between 10-12 Veterans take time out of their life to share experiences with students. In 2011, my school was lucky enough to get Medal of Honor recipient Colonel Joe Marm speak. Col. Marm was awarded the MoH for his actions at the Battle of Ia Drang.
While Veterans Day is for all Veterans—Past and Present, the day should not be confused with Memorial Day. This confusion is often made by my students. Whereas, Memorial Day is to honor all service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans--living or dead. Veterans Day is so that we can give thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.
Medal of Honor Recipient Woody Williams,
Last Iwo Jima MOH living
and Vietnam Veteran Russ Vermillion
I would urge all teachers to invite Veterans into their classroom to speak to students. Unlike a teacher who is capable of relaying all facts to students about wars, a Veteran gives a personal story and point of view that cannot be duplicated. These Veterans are able to relay first hand information in such a way that students are captivated and inspired to learn more. Be sure to contact your local veterans group and invite Veterans to speak at your school. You will be amazed at what they have to offer and what a great experience it will be for you and your students.