Invite a Medal of Honor recipient to your school to give a talk. There is nothing like a real piece of living history and a great role model to touch the lives of young people in your school.
Whether you adopted a Medal of Honor recipient as a class project, or just want the opportunity to meet with one, there is no more exciting opportunity than a patriotic school assembly with a Medal of Honor recipient as your special guest and speaker. Unfortunately it happens all too rarely, and probably because most teachers don't realize just how possible such a wonderful event can be. Our purpose in this page is two-fold:
To address the questions and concerns that you may have about such a program, and
Provide ideas for putting together your program.
WHAT'S IT GOING TO COST?
Of course that is always the biggest concern. Most schools, churches, clubs and other organizations are used to speakers who charge LARGE HONORARIUMS to participate in a program. Major "celebrities" like Medal of Honor recipients must surely be quite expensive, right? WRONG!
Most of the Medal of Honor recipients we have met have spent their lives DONATING their time and efforts to patriotic education. In fact, one of the main activities at their annual reunions is a period set aside to visit schools in the host town. Does this mean that their visit to your school is free? NO! Someone will pay for it, and all too often it has been the hero themselves. So dedicated to patriotic education are these great men that most will visit a school or youth organization even when they have out-of-pocket travel and other expenses. Is this RIGHT? NO!
Though the odds are that, when you invite a Medal of Honor recipient to speak to your school he will never mention cost, good stewardship requires that you do your best to compensate him for travel and other expenses. And it sure doesn't hurt to add a little extra as a "gift of appreciation".
WHAT ABOUT PROTOCOL?
If you don't know what "protocol" is, just announce publicly that you've invited a Medal of Honor recipient to your school and you'll start hearing about it. Among military personnel proper protocol (procedure) is a way of life and increasingly important when dealing with high ranking officers, VIPs, and Medal of Honor recipients. When a Medal Of Honor recipient walks onto a military post or is a guest at a Veterans' function they do appreciate the practice of proper protocol. But when they walk into a classroom of young Americans they are more concerned about interest, patriotism and respect than procedure, pomp and ceremony. You may not understand all of the right ways and wrong ways of conducting certain ceremonies, but don't let the fear of making a mistake keep you from taking advantage of the opportunity to introduce your students to a "living legend". Just DO YOUR BEST, and you will be appreciated for it.
WHAT IF A STUDENT ASKS AN EMBARRASSING QUESTION?
Trust me...ONE OF THEM WILL! And as you cringe in your seat your visiting Medal Recipient will answer it simply and honestly. It is not unusual for children to have questions about the nature of warfare, questions that we as adults may think far too personal to ever ask. Medal of Honor recipients have heard them all, and learned to handle them.
SO WHERE DO I START?
You start by moving from the idea that "It would be nice to invite a Medal of Honor recipient to our school" to DOING IT.
Develop your program team! The first step is to SHARE your ideas with other teachers or leaders in your school, church, organization, etc. The best way to effectively accomplish any task is through TEAMWORK. Of course, you will need to get the support and approvals necessary from any administrators for whom you work.
Get the kids involved at the start! Start planning some target dates for your school program. You may wish plan around a patriotic holiday, a school awards program, or leave the date open until you have contacted your "guest".
Contact the Medal of Honor recipient you wish to invite. Remember, your first contact will be by letter forwarded through the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, so allow realistic time frames. Once contact is established your lines of communication will become more direct and you can work together with the Medal of Honor recipient to find a date and time that works for both him and your school.
"Lay the Groundwork". In the weeks before the series of school assemblies in Pueblo's 53 schools in 1996, different schools approached this in different ways. Some schools invited local veterans to speak in the classrooms, others had children write essays about what it meant to be a "hero". Some schools developed wall displays, another covered its walls with motivational banners and decorated the entire building in red, white and blue.
Get the entire community involved. "Yeah...right!" you say. If schools could find a way to get the community more involved in education many of our problems could be solved. Well, THIS WORKS! Invite the parents and get them involved in planning. Your local military recruiters can be a great resource. Most military personnel have NEVER met a Medal of Honor recipient and you'll find them eager to help. And keep your local media up-to-date. There is enough press for the kids who get in trouble...here is a chance to highlight the positive.
Have a great, inspirational program. Plan your program to include the children. If you are a grade school have your scouts begin with a flag ceremony. In high schools involve your ROTC students. Include your band, choir, or individual students in some patriotic songs. Make this assembly an experience your students will remember and cherish for years to come.
SHARE your success with others. We'd like to know about your program. Send us information on what you did, what worked (or didn't work), perhaps even some photographs, and we'll post them in this site for others to see and emulate.
Honor a past Recipient at a local grave:
Visit a local grave site to honor MOH Recipients and other veterans that gave all they had.
Contribute to the CMOHS Scholarship Fund:
Help the Society fund scholarships to worthy young people in search of higher education.
Memorial Day Celebration:
The day off from school/work is nice but learn how you can pay tribute to those that died for the American people.
A big thanks to Doug Sterner and his HomeofHeroes website for providing most of the content of this page.