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‘Heros with heroes’ at Roanoke Elementary School Veterans Day event

Third graders at Roanoke Elementary School learned about military service from special guests — four United States veterans.

Each veteran — Mark Ansky, Walter Brown, Barry Gilmore and Brian Mooney — was stationed in a classroom where they had 20 minutes to present to one class at a time, detailing their service and allowing the kids to ask questions.

After time was up the students moved onto the next classroom, allowing them to hear from all four veterans.

“I think that you can’t teach about our history or culture without reflecting upon military history and service,” third grade teacher Gary Karlson said. “The lessons the veterans spoke about today touched directly on so many shared values — duty, family, education, responsibility and cooperation were just some of the themes woven into each presentation.”

Mr. Gilmore, an Army veteran who served during the Vietnam War, explained how he was drafted into the war, serving overseas for nine months before he was injured and discharged. He later received a Purple Heart for his service.

“Jan. 31, the first day of the defensive, we happened to be in our base camp and got rocketed and I got hit with fragments,” Mr. Gilmore said. “I still have fragments in my leg.”

In order to better explain the draft to the students, each third grader was assigned a number. Mr. Gilmore then chose three numbers and those students were “drafted” and given the opportunity to try on his uniform.

Brian Mooney, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, showed pictures from his service to the students. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

For Mr. Mooney, who also served in the Army during the Vietnam War, his time in the military was the realization of a goal he’d had since he was a child playing with toy soldiers.

Mr. Ansky served in the Navy and later worked as a “glorified landscaper” for the military, including working at Camp David, the famed presidential retreat in Maryland. He worked there during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and even got to fly on the president’s airplane.

Mr. Brown, who currently works as a security guard at Roanoke, served in the Army for nine years during Operation Desert Storm. He remained in the United States and did work testing different explosives.

He brought his dogtags in to show the students, and explained how they are helpful in identifying service men and women.

The students peppered the veterans with questions such as  “why did you join?” “does it hurt having fragments in your leg?” and “was serving scary?”

Mr. Karlson, who organized the discussion, called the first Veterans Day Round Robin a “rewarding day.” The day ended with the students and veterans enjoying a lunch of sandwiches, which they called “heros with heroes.”

“When the children have off in honor of Veteran’s Day [Friday] we want them to have an appreciation for why our nation has dedicated a holiday to honoring the service of our men and women,” he said.

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Army veteran Barry Gilmore (center) allowed third grade students to try on his uniform from when he served in the Vietnam War. (Credit: Nicole Smith)
Army veteran Walter Brown answered questions about his service during Roanoke Avenue Elementary School’s first Veterans Day Round Robin. (Credit: Nicole Smith)
Mark Anksy, who served in the Navy, spoke to the students about his experience and travels. (Credit: Nicole Smith)