Memorial Day explained on personal level to Early College students

David Broyles

May 27, 2014

DOBSON — Surry Early College teacher and Iraq War veteran Jonathan Amos, like many vets, is driven to tell the stories of sacrifice and service to the next generation, if for no other reason, because he feels children need to know.

Monday, the entire school participated in three sessions with four additional rotating group experiences used to explain the importance of the holiday and to analyze character traits of leaders who risk their lives and face tremendous obstacles.

“We want our kids to really know what this day means and especially to other people,” said Principal Kevin Via.

According to English teacher Andrew Chilton, the day’s activities culminated with a school assembly where plaques made by the students listed the names of 476 local veterans killed in wars ranging from The Revolutionary War to Operation Enduring Freedom.

Chilton said Amos was the county Teacher of the Year in 2012. He said Amos also had served in South Korea and said plans are under way to make a presentation on the project later this summer at an educational conference in Raleigh.

The plaques were set on stakes and placed in the lawn in front of the college’s T Building. After each war was called out as students with the name plaques came out to the school building to place them on the lawn.

“Surry County Schools’ mission is to inform and educate its students,” said Amos. “It’s (Memorial Day) not about the beginning of summer. It’s about remembering. We were very emphatic about this project being centered on this from the beginning and it being interdisciplinary and interactive for them.”

Amos, who teaches history, said the case studies include the stories of those who did not make it back (an Army medic and a young soldier in Afghanistan) and the most decorated soldier of Vietnam, Medal of Honor Recipient Robert Howard, who did return.

“As we are telling these stories we are including time for them to reflect on this. It’s important to remember,” said Amos. “They are being asked to go deeper. To see how virtues such as patriotism and selfless service were shown by these soldiers. We want student to know about Surry County’s contributions to this.” Teachers involved with the project agreed many of the important traits they were asking students to process for themselves were exhibited by soldiers who were young adults themselves.

Students were asked to represent one or two local soldiers who fell in the various conflicts and evaluate music from various historical periods which was a popular response to wars. Students also were asked to design a wall of peace built on the stories of those who have served and gave their lives in the hope of future peace for future generations.

Participants also learned about the daily routine of Arlington National Cemetery. Other exercises included discussion the characteristics of military members and first responders, create group reflective journals based on leadership traits from Medal of Honor vignettes and “map” leadership characteristics including courage, integrity, sacrifice, commitment, citizenship and patriotism.

David Broyles may be reached at 336-325-1952 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.