By: Ethan Rampersaud
Photo Credit: Ethan Rampersaud
This Veterans Day, November 11th, 2018, will mark the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I. In that war, brave souls on both sides fought, not just fighting for the victory of their homeland, but for the family and friends they’ve sworn to protect. In the aftermath, some returned to their homes, if they were lucky, only to experience the pains of shell shock and war wounds. Others couldn’t return home, becoming casualties, marked or unmarked, in a war that tore apart families and the world. An amalgam of courage, fear, pain and patriotism was expressed through the literal shedding of blood, sweat and tears as the sounds of bullets and bombs pierced the air. However, we as a society frequently overlook this honorable and selfless service, since we cannot truly perceive or understand the risks and dangers soldiers face both inside and outside the battlefield. In order for us to better appreciate the meaning and importance of Veteran’s Day, I interviewed some of our teachers who had been former veterans themselves. Their multiple stories and perspectives emphasize the strength, mental and physical, that built themselves as well as others.
First and foremost, it is important to understand the sacrifice and risk involved in serving the army. Physical wounds, such as scars, flesh wounds and amputated limbs, personify the sacrifice in an observable and tangible form. For instance, our own Mr. Grayling, at the time a private in the British Army, fought in the Battle of Goose Green, during the Falklands War between Great Britain and Argentina. During the battle, he had been shot in the hip after he, along with Lance-Corporal Gary Bingley, ran from cover and charged to attack the enemy. While Mr. Grayling was fortunate enough to survive and be awarded with the Queen’s Gallantry Medal (shown above), Lance-Corporal Bingley did not make it. Not only did Mr. Grayling demonstrate risk for the sake of his country, but his comrade’s sacrifice shows how service in the army can become a one-way street, with death becoming a possibility. While physical sacrifice in the army is observable and able to be appreciated, it is also important to understand the mental sacrifice that is taken by our veterans. For those unfortunate enough to see war, shell shock, which later became commonly known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), can linger, and for them, the war might have not really ended. Furthermore, the fact that soldiers have to leave family and friends behind to serve a greater cause exacerbates the depression and stress they feel before, during and after their service. Mr. Green, who was a military intelligence analyst during the Cold War era, notes that doing this, “…was the biggest sacrifice I had to make and that pales in comparison to losing life or limb.” Not only do soldiers face the chance of injury and death, they also endure being without their loved ones and their companions, something that many people couldn’t imagine. This goes to show that our respect should not be just for the wounds and scars, but for the seclusion and trauma they may face before, during and after wartime.
Second, the discipline all veterans display is a testament to what they’ve been taught in the army. The process they go through leaves no room for disrespect, sensitivity nor cowardice. The armed forces ensure that individuals who enter become stronger, not just physically, but also mentally. When Mr. Charlick served in the US Army, he participated in a ten-mile march that ended up giving him eight blisters on his feet, and another blister after. From that experience, he understood that he needed to prepare for the struggles ahead, which later became a part of his ideals as a teacher and a coach. Mrs. Swonger, who served in the Air Force, states her confidence and ability to lead “…can be attributed to the dedication of duty that became part of my soul while serving in the Air Force.” Veterans also demonstrate the characteristic of teamwork, working together to achieve the collective goal of protection. This can be direct, such as fighting in the battlefield, or indirect, such as the occupations of field medics, military engineers, and drill instructors. For instance, as a military intelligence analyst, Mr. Green could determine how many enemy troops could support their radar and communication systems. This allowed troops on the battlefield to be much safer and prepared for what lay ahead. All of these elements in the military were the building blocks that built their strong character and respect they show today.
Finally, the values the army teaches to veterans can go on to help future generations build character and leadership skills important in all walks of life. In Pasco High School, we see our veterans apply this in their teaching. Mrs. Swonger demonstrates her values through establishing classroom rules, which tell students to be safe, honest, respectful and responsible. Mr. Charlick also applies the lessons he learned from being in the army into helping his students become more responsible and prepared for higher level thinking and responsibility. In his words, “My first quarter’s always going to be the hardest quarter, because I make sure I break everybody down to the point where I can rebuild them with the proper study skills and mindset to be successful….” When these military principles are applied to our education, it is bound to yield more focused, selfless students ready to take on any challenge.
Our veterans are a representation of the bold and heroic souls of the American people. Not only do they risk their lives, but they risk having to leave family and friends behind and may come home traumatized by war. Their discipline allows them to understand values of teamwork, responsibility and conviction, and they pass those values onto future generations, hoping that they will learn and improve from their example. This lifelong service to others is why we should cherish and appreciate their service not just on Veteran’s Day, but every day.