For many kids around the country, Veterans Day was more than just a day off school; it was an opportunity to learn about and celebrate veterans through Honor Their Courage, an education and fundraising initiative for schools created and provided free of charge by Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP).
Teachers and students from kindergarten through 12th grade receive educational resources to learn about veterans, including personal stories and lesson plans. Kids can also participate in fundraising efforts to aid and empower wounded warriors through WWP’s numerous lifesaving programs and services.
Creating a Connection
Military service is a cause close to fourth-grade teacher Heather Ker’s heart. Her husband and niece are serving in the military and her school, LT Ball Intermediate School in Tipp City, Ohio, is located near Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Ker said when she came across the Honor Their Courage initiative on Facebook, she thought it would be a great fit.
“I think putting a face, like the videos we show through the Honor Their Courage [program], to a veteran for Veterans Day is great,” Ker said.
Ker’s students made posters thanking a veteran and held a drive-through parade for veterans in their community. They also interviewed veterans for their project, allowing them to build a personal connection.
“I just feel like I have 9- and 10-year-olds [students], and teaching them that life is beyond themselves is what we need to do that at this age, so I felt like it was important when I ran across this program … just talking to the kids about the sacrifices that our military members, and their families, have to make in order for us to have our freedom,” Ker said.
Ker said she also liked the program because it fits in with the values the school already aims to instill in students.
“As a school district, we have three pillars that we work to achieve every day, from kindergarten all the way up to high school seniors, which are ‘be respectful, be responsible, and have integrity,’” she said. “So, a lot of those traits that we’re learning through the Honor Their Courage program are also ones that we talk about every day here at school.”
“Veterans Are Not Just People Who Lived 100 Years Ago”
As the spouse of a retired Air Force veteran, teacher Carla Gasiewicz said finding ways to celebrate and honor veterans is valuable regardless of age.
“When I saw this opportunity come up, I was happy to do it,” Gasiewicz said about Honor Their Courage. “I loved that [our] curriculum went right along with the program and the [Wounded Warrior] Project, and we always look to do something for Veterans Day.”
Gasiewicz’s third-grade class at Hillview Elementary School in Lancaster, New York, creates a “Hallway of Veterans” where students can feature a veteran or service member in their life. Adding the Honor Their Courage curriculum helped incorporate learning what it means to serve the country, including hearing first-hand stories from veterans and family members.
“We love the very kid-friendly videos and it’s really nice for them to make that connection with a veteran,” Gasiewicz said. “We read the book, Tuesday Tucks Me In, and we talked about how some veterans don’t look like they’re wounded, so we talked about some of those invisible things that veterans might be struggling with that we just don’t know.”
Tuesday Tucks Me In, written by Luis Carlos Montalván, tells the story of a day in the life of service dog, Tuesday, and the veteran she shares her adventure with. The story is told from Tuesday’s point of view. Gasiewicz said introducing the Honor Their Courage curriculum to students is a good way to show them that veterans are real people from all walks of life.
“Most importantly, I think it’s good for them to understand that veterans are not just people who lived 100 years ago, but they are also people who are living among us,” she said. “They are people who have served in different kinds of capacities throughout the years.”
Gasiewicz’s students were also selling bracelets to help raise funds for Wounded Warrior Project — and learning basic math fundamentals, while having fun.
“Our fundraiser, the kids are having a ball with it,” Gasiewicz said. “The kids will be getting the orders, counting money, filling the orders, and writing thank you notes to all the people who have supported this, so there are so many curricular ties, as well as just learning about our veterans. It’s really great because, for us, it’s project-based learning.”
Making a Difference
Perhaps the biggest lesson students can learn from teachers like Ker and Gasiewicz and the Honor Their Courage program is that their effort counts when it comes to honoring and empowering our nation’s warriors.
“This is my 26th year teaching, and I just don’t think people give children enough credit, and I want them to know they make a difference,” Ker said. “Even if it’s something small, collectively they’re making a difference for veterans. And they’re making a difference in their own life, too, because now they know how it feels to give. Just building that empowerment in them and hoping that, down the road, they continue to feel that way.”
Contact: — Paris Moulden, Public Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 904.570.7910
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.