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Schooling Our Children

Honor Flight Arizona is very grateful for teachers who school our children so diligently in the history of our country and the significance of the events that provided us with the freedoms we continue to enjoy. We thank the teachers, schools, student councils, families and friends, such as those mentioned below, and their support and fundraising efforts on behalf of our Veterans.  Please feel free to view the “For Teachers” page on our website if you would like more information on how you can help us continue Our Mission to honor these great men and women who have served us all so selflessly.

With many schools getting back in session this month, the letter below written to us by Margaret Kadlec (a teacher from Desert Ridge Junior High in Mesa, Arizona) is a great reminder that a small conversation can become a big idea that has a huge impact on many. I have to admit, it brought tears to my eyes to read it:

Honor Flight AZ WWII Veteran speaking to children at Ft. McHenry on a recent trip.
Honor Flight AZ WWII Veteran speaking to children on a field trip at Ft. McHenry on a recent trip.

To the Veterans and the Honor Flight Program

My story begins about 2 years ago, in May of 2012. As an 8th grade Social Studies teacher you can imagine how busy I was trying to accomplish all that was needed to close up my classroom for the end of the year. Students were getting ready to take their finals and I was grading, packing and cleaning. Late one afternoon, a colleague and friend, Kim Swartz, approached me with a question. Would I be interested in fundraising for the Honor Flight Program? Her husband Mark had been involved for quite some time and she thought it would be a great idea to bring it to Desert Ridge Junior High School. I was interested but knew nothing about Honor Flight. To be honest I had never heard of the program. With all that was going on I quickly said I thought it was a wonderful idea and we agreed that we would talk in August. She gave me a pamphlet to look through. I went back to my classroom and for some reason instead of tucking it away in a drawer of file I tacked in up on my empty cork board and there it stayed until the new school year came around.

When I returned in August and entered my room there the pamphlet was, waiting for me. As soon as things settled down we got to work. I first contacted the Principal to see if she was on board with bringing Honor Flight to our campus. She was and suggested that we partner up with Student Council to get the ball rolling. We came up with the idea to sell SUPPORT OUR VETERANS wrist bands in hopes of sending one Veteran to D.C. and to also expose students to the importance of honoring all Veterans. We got teacher and staff support and sold the wrist bands for an entire week. Students watched an Honor Flight video montage and the Social Studies department promoted and sold them in the classrooms. We accomplished our goal with enough money left over to fund the following 2014 school year. So again this past year, through the generosity of our DRJHS students, families and staff we were able to collect enough to send a Veteran and fund next year. What we are doing is our small way of thanking you for all you have done to protect our freedoms. I feel very privileged and blessed that I have been introduced to the Honor Flight Program. Thank you.

The story does not end there. On May 27, 2014, I was fortunate enough to go on a 5-day trip to Gettysburg and Washington, D.C. along with 30 students and 4 other teachers. We left on the Tuesday after Memorial Day. It was a jam-packed trip full of monuments, archives, memorials and museums. We were out from morning until night. I saw and experienced more than I ever could have imagined. One of the places we visited was Arlington Cemetery. Our plan was to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. As we walked up the many stairs leading up to our destination, the students and adults began to realize the hallowed grounds we were on. A few students asked questions but for the most part they were quiet and overwhelmed by the number of headstones. As we approached the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier we could see a large crowd and I noticed many blue shirts. We got closer and within minutes I realized there was a group of Honor Flight Veterans waiting to see the changing of the guards. When our group had visited the WWII Memorial it was pouring rain and it was eerily empty. As we left the memorial, I thought the chance to see a WWII Veteran had unfortunately passed. It had not. As we took our spots to witness the changing of the guard, a few students looked my way and nudged me to let me know they recognized the heroes across the way. We all felt honored to be in their presence. I was thinking and hoping that the students would realize that their efforts from the previous school year would someday send a WWII Veteran on this very trip. The changing of the guard ceremony began and we all watched knowing that we were witnessing something very special. What happened next was incredible.

The ceremony ended and I was thinking what an honor it would be to shake one Veteran’s hand and thank him for his service. I held back, however, because I knew this was a very personal journey for them and I did not want to intrude. A second or so later a few people approached the Veterans so I headed down. I shook a few Veterans’ hands and then out of the corner of my eye I began to see the bright green shirts of our students lining up behind me in an impromptu reception line. Each student shook every Veteran’s hand and was thanking them for their service. I heard one student say, “You are my hero” and another say, “I am honored to meet you sir.” I could not believe it. These 12, 13 and 14 year old students got it! They understood the enormous sacrifice that these men and women, that YOU, gave to secure the freedoms that we all have today. We were all so very honored to be in the presence of these heroes. The looks on the faces of the Veterans and students is something I will never forget. The connection was powerful and genuine. It brought me to tears and a few students were also crying. Everyone’s emotions and tears represented the importance of the moment. I walked away a very different person. I know I was not the only one.

Thank you for your service and sacrifice. You are true American Heroes and you will never be forgotten.

Margaret Kadlec — Desert Ridge Junior High-GPS, Mesa AZ

2 Comments on “Schooling Our Children

  1. That is a totally awesome story! Thanks for sharing the whole thing. Just when you thought – “Aw – that’s nice” – wow – it became amazing. Thanks for the continued inspiration!

  2. I had the privilege of being one of the Guardians on the Honor Flight in the April 2014 Honor Flight group. It was an incredible experience. I realized that you forgot to mention our DAR chapter. There are a lot of DAR groups and so we do not want to miss any that have also contributed. DAR hugs, Sue Irwin