Yucca Middle School celebrates veterans

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Yucca Principal Mitzi Estes thanks veteran Burdette Theophilus for attending the event Thursday morning.

Liliana Castillo

Hands leaped into the air one after another, the students eager to ask Lt. Col. Jeff Hinrichs the next question Thursday morning.

He was visiting their class as part of the Veterans Day ceremony held at Yucca Middle School. Thirty-six veterans and active duty service members visited the school and spent a half hour in a classroom talking with students.

The event was planned by the school’s public relations goal team. Kayla Payne, a teacher at Yucca and a member of the public relations team, said it is important for students to hear the experiences of military members, veteran or active duty.

“The students can hear what they’ve gone through for our freedom,” she said.

The students spent the week learning about different wars and veterans, she said.

Science teacher and coach Anne Sharp said hearing veterans experiences directly from them is important.

“Too many times we don’t hear the whole story,” she said. “Experience is what we live by.”

Sharp said having interaction with the military in a small group shows the students what opportunities are available for them in the military.

Student teacher Sergio Nieto said the event and the Yucca Brag Board are intended to give back. The Yucca Brag Board is located in the school’s main hallway and features photographs of former Yucca students who are serving in the military.

“They do so much for our way of life that we take for granted. We can go to Wal-Mart, go to the store, be a teacher, all because of what they’ve done,” he said.

Airman 1st Class Carly Kerr, 21, attended because she said she enjoys visiting with students.

“Talking to the kids in the classroom, that’s a great experience. I didn’t get to do that when I was in school. Everything I learned about the military was on TV or the Internet,” she said. “It’s good for them to hear what the military is really like.”

Kerr said she enjoyed answering questions and talking about what she does.

“It’s just nice talking to people who appreciate what you do,” she said.

Veteran Burdette Theophilus, 79, attended because he said “When you’re young, you learn, then you do, then you improve, then you teach.”

“It is important for students to learn about my experiences. Those who do not know history tend to repeat it,” he said. “If older generations don’t try to pass on their values, standards and ethics, then the children have no idea how to live a life.”

Veteran Tammy Adkins, 50, is a contractor with IBM at Cannon Air Force Base.

“And it’s all because of training I received in the Air Force,” she said. “I told the kids never say no to training.”

Adkins said middle school age is a good time to talk to the students about their future.

“They need to hear from veterans and business people. This is where they start to make those decisions,” she said.

Adkins said she considered it a blessing that the veterans and active duty military could talk to the students.

“There are all kind of things going on that they aren’t aware of,” she said.