Veterans reach out to Mattawoman Middle School
By Senior Airman Amber Russell, 11th Wing, Public Affairs
/ Published November 13, 2012
WALDORF, Md. -- In honor of U.S. service members, past and present, several Joint Base Andrews Airmen and veterans from the surrounding area supported Mattawoman Middle Schools' Veterans Day program and spoke with nearly 150 students in Waldorf, Md., Nov. 9.
"We invite veterans here each year to give students the opportunity to honor them," said Andrea Hoover, MMS social studies department head.
During the event, the students rotated to classrooms to meet and talk with veterans. The timed sessions focused on how integrity and character are important in performing any job, and why it's important to build on a foundation now to last a lifetime.
Many students said they were excited to get the opportunity to hear about the military experience firsthand.
"It's a huge honor to be in the presence of so many brave Soldiers who fought for our country and sacrificed so much," said 12-year-old Jordyn Best. "My grandfather was in the Marine Corps and I'm very thankful for him."
Gratitude was a common exchange throughout the day.
"I appreciate the veterans coming in to speak with the students," said Joseph Farrell, MMS social studies teacher. "The students were very interested, engaged and asked a lot of questions."
Chief Master Sgt. Jerry Phillips, Air Force District of Washington chief of outreach and support, said one student asked him a striking question: "What good can come from fighting wars?"
The chief explained sacrifices veterans make to defend the nation serve to help abroad and domestically.
"Some good things have occurred due to our presence in Afghanistan," said Phillips. "We implemented combat training to help Afghans stand up their own forces as well as help train them in agricultural and business management."
Veterans made a commitment to give the ultimate sacrifice for their country, said one Airman. Helping others can be an inherent benefit, but other benefits come with a life of service.
"I received a great education in the Air Force Academy, which launched me into my career and has paid dividends ever since," said retired Lt. Col. Phil Landweer.
Landweer, who once worked at Edwards AFB, Calif., supporting Air Force and Navy test flights, addressed Farrell's sixth grade class, which included his grandson, Taylor Landweer.
He gave a picture slideshow presentation of his life in the Air Force, beginning with his graduation at the academy and several duty stations where he flew fliers, propeller airplanes and one jet.
His only complaints with his life of service echoed many other volunteers that day, relocating and time away from family.
"At one point in my career I moved six times within seven years," he said.
With all of the hardships endured, service members there said deciding to serve their country was one of the best decisions they made. The most called upon reason was the way a military mindset can build strength in character.
"The military teaches you to lead and follow," said retired Capt. Timothy Boykin. "Being able to do both builds strong character."
Team Andrews' Chief Master Sgt. Craig LeDeux,U.S. Air Force Band chief enlisted manager, referenced the Airmen's Creed when speaking with the youths that day.
"One really important thing in the Airmen's Creed is 'I will never leave a wingman behind;' this is about being a good friend to others," said LeDeux in kid-friendly terms. "We don't stand for bullying in the Air Force. Also, if we leave others behind it would take away from team progress."
The children asked why his job, playing the trombone, is meaningful in the Air Force.
"Music is a form of communication," said LeDeux. "Instruments were once used to call troops into battle. Today, the band provides a soundtrack for the nation to mourn to. When the fallen ambassadors were brought back to Joint Base Andrews, the band played to honor them. Our mission is also to build enthusiasm, or esprit de corps, during other military events."
From start to finish, the veterans stressed the importance of education.
"Your journey starts where you're at right now," said Lt. Col. Joseph Moritz, Air Force District of Washington executive officer. "Stay in school; but don't just stay in school, educate yourself. Don't just educate yourself; get the best education you can get. Strive for A' s."