Today is Veterans Day—an important national holiday in which we honor all of those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. We have veterans among our parents, grandparents, faculty, staff, and alumni. As you drive onto campus, you will see a banner at the main entrance commemorating this day. But we need to do more than just be performative. This is about taking time to educate students about the value of service and the sacrifices men and women in uniform make. Just yesterday, I took my War on Terror class to an event called Comeback Yoga. It is an organization founded by Ned and Margot Timbel, two former CA parents, that helps veterans face PTSD through yoga and meditation. My students heard from veterans and their spouses about their experiences. In the past 20 years, many veterans served multiple tours of duty and spent years away from their loved ones, protecting this nation.
Aside from teachers using class time to talk about Veterans Day, some students have designed programming for their classmates. Sophomore Leah Blake and Alumni Director Sue Burleigh have organized an Upper School lunch during which three alumni guests will discuss their experiences serving in the U.S. Military. First, Zooming in from Germany, will be Maggie Sherrill Nicklas ’12. She is an Air Force Academy grad and currently an F-16 fighter pilot (and one of the best CA volleyball players of all time!) Second, and in person, Colin Gumm ’94 will talk about his tours of duty in Kosovo and Iraq and his reflections on Veterans Day. Colin has spoken to my class in the past and has offered insight into the experiences of soldiers. Last, Annelise Agelopoulos ’22, home on break from West Point, will speak about the beginning of her journey serving our country.
Another notable student who has done much to draw attention to the experience of veterans is Senior Noah Hicks. For a Fifth Grade assignment, Noah wanted to interview a veteran, so he decided to speak to his neighbor Maury Serotta, who had served in the Korean War. At first, the interview was a bit tight, but then Serotta really opened up to Noah. He shared the powerful story of how a flood had threatened to wipe out an ammo dump. Serotta and his troops had to move the boxes of ammo; but no one would go out to the most dangerous part of the river, where the flooding was most extensive. Then an African American soldier stepped up. Serotta shared that he had received a Bronze Star, but it was not quite fulfilling. Noah says, “What he told me was it was the biggest regret of his life that he got this Bronze Star because the man who was in the middle passing the ammo across wasn’t commended for anything and was not recognized at all,” says Hicks. “He said it was because he was African American, and at the time, it was a time of bigotry and prejudice.” No one in Serotta’s family had heard this story.
Hicks wrote an essay last June about Serotta’s story for one of his classes, which you can read here. A local news station also did this feature on Hicks’s interview and essay.
I’m proud of the efforts some of our CA students are undertaking to ensure our veterans are properly honored. Their stories are really important. I often say I’m not sure that those of us who have not served can ever fully understand the experience of a soldier—particularly those who have experienced combat—but we need to take the time to listen to, to read, and to watch their stories. This is a time for us to be curious and respectful of those experiences. It’s one way we can do our part to honor their service.