On Tuesday, I had a veteran Don Roff, who is also my partner, come in and talk to the kids for Veteran’s Day. His talk was a perfect balance between honoring soldiers while also confronting the romanticism of war, as well as ways to avoid it.
He started by asking the kids what a veteran is. He then asked if any of the kids had veterans in their families. This led to a discussion about the different wars that the United States has been involved in. Don then explained that he was a radio operator in the U.S. Army Rangers and how the original Rangers adopted their fighting techniques from the American Indians during the French and Indian Wars.
He told them of how he jumped out of airplanes and how to make a soft landing on land, as well as how to negotiate a safe water landing. He showed them photos of jumpers and fast-ropers. He then talked about communication and how it is best to talk, reason, and negotiate before going to war. Someone said that the commercials on television made it seem like war was fun. Don told them about how being in the military and going to war is hard work, that it is scary and that it is not fun. He told them that it can also be sad to lose close friends in war.
There is so much romanticizing going on the classroom around fighting and war, that I was so glad that this was brought up during the talk. Don also discussed how your views can change and that when you are young, it might seem fun and how he loved to play with G.I. Joe’s but that as you grow, you realize that there are better ways to communicate and that he would never want to go to war again.
Then he stayed to read from his books. The kids always love to hear him read, like he did last year, and it is so fun as a teacher and his partner to see the kids climbing all over him, giving him their undivided attention for hours at a time and just to see how important it was to have this piece of history brought into our classroom.
Thank you, Don. We appreciated your time, honesty, and caring. We also really LOVE your stories. The kids asked me all day today, “When is Don coming back to read his stories?”