Talking Military Matters To Fifth Graders
Michigan fifth grade teacher Jack Bauer invited his friend U.S. Army Sergeant Bob Wentworth to the classroom to discuss with students the military's role in today's current affairs:
Chapelle Elementary School teacher Jack Bauer hopes his fifth-graders aren't burdened with worries about the war in Iraq, because after all, they are kids.Down here in California's rural "Imperial" Valley, there is a strong military presence that stems from a nereby naval air facility. The base hosts the navy's elite Blue Angels precision flying group each winter.
At the same time, Bauer wants to ensure that his students are aware of the world around them and have an understanding of events that impact Americans.
That's why Bauer asked family friend and serviceman Bob Wentworth to visit fifth-graders from his class and another one Nov. 16. Wentworth, a sergeant in the 303rd Company of the 783rd Military Police Battalion, served at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and has volunteered to serve in Iraq.
Current events are a part of Bauer's class curriculum, but while reading youth news magazines with his students, Bauer got the impression they didn't know that much about the war in Iraq.
"I thought I would bring (Wentworth) in and let them meet somebody so they could make a connection between what's going on here and what's going on over there,'' Bauer said. "I just thought it would be a really good thing for them to talk to him.''
Wentworth answered questions for about an hour, ranging from what was going on in Iraq and why he had chosen to volunteer, to how heavy his armor is and how the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay treated him.
Bauer said his students were excited by the presentation.
"Different kids were excited about different things. Some liked his uniform, some liked his tattoos. Some liked his message and some of them liked to hear him talk about the size of the guns he shoots and stuff like that,'' Bauer said.
Wentworth was one of 14 friends who served together and volunteered for a tour in Iraq.
"We became real close friends and decided that if one of us was going, we weren't going to let him go without everybody else,'' Wentworth said. "We'll all be together. In fact, 90 percent of us will be in the same platoon. My two best friends in the Army are in my squad.''
Wentworth pursued a career in law enforcement before joining the Army Reserves, and said while he is unsure about what he'll do upon leaving the Army, he's in no hurry to quit his job.
"I enjoy what I do right now,'' Wentworth said. "I enjoy defending the country and fighting for it. As messed as things are in our own country, and as much as we like to police the world, it's a great place to work. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.''
Wentworth's main points to the children were about the Army's role in defending the freedom of Americans, which he told the children was his favorite part about the job, and the fact that even though it can be fun to talk about weapons, guns should never be treated as toys.
The class prepared questions for Wentworth so each student could pose a different one, and they provided many relevant topics for discussion.
"We talked about where Iraq is in the world, and also Afghanistan,'' Bauer said. "We talked about how it wasn't a war where we had to talk about being attacked here, but it was more of a war to help their government start up a democracy.''
To continue the connection established during the visit, Bauer has arranged for the class to send letters and e-mail to Wentworth while he serves in Iraq. Although he warned the kids about his busy schedule and the likely delay in his responses, Wentworth promised to return as many e-mails as possible, and to share the letters with fellow soldiers who might also write back.
"I think now when they see a news report on the TV and they see the soldiers walking through the streets, they're going to say, 'Wow, that guy that was in my class is there,''' Bauer said. "They will make that connection.''
Large numbers of our young people here in the "Valley" choose to enlist in the military following high school.