I'm 'thankful' to be a part of this collaboration. I'm a Kindergarten teacher now, but I have another earlier and rather unique part of my own story.
Veteran’s Day is near and dear to my heart because I am a Veteran.
I served in the Army Reserves for over 9 years. The reason I joined the Army was to serve overseas and fight for my country. I didn’t care about getting college paid for or getting recognition for my service but just to give back to my country. In September of 2004, the last year of my service and the first year of my marriage, that dream became a reality and I was deployed to Iraq with a unit from Missouri (not my home state).
We were on a base that was constantly being mortared (bombed). The enemy knew that we were the base with all the ammo and so of course they wanted to take it out. Each time we were mortared, the sirens would sound and we would have to go to the bunkers until "all clear" was called and it was safe to get back to duty. This was a regular occurrence in the day of a soldier there.
When I came home for 2 weeks of rest and relaxation, it was a happy time but yet a very scary time. I had been deployed for 7 months at that point and came home only to find out that although MY civilian world had been put on hold; my husband’s and my family’s civilian lives had continued on. This was a HUGE adjustment for me and hard for me to understand. I traveled back to Iraq sad and confused and just wanting to be home for good. Thank goodness for all of the good friends I had made during deployment because they kept me going and kept me focused on the mission. Five more months and I could go home for good!
The biggest adjustment was coming home permanently. For a whole year, I was in another country with a new "family" and new friends, living with a roommate and showering in cold water, wearing 40lbs of gear everyday and living in 140 degree heat! Then to come home and re-adjust to the civilian world where most people close to me didn’t understand where I had been and what I had been through. I felt like a stranger in my own home. I felt like I was meeting my husband for the first time and learning all of his new quirks and personality. It was then I realized that when couples are living together, they grow and change together as a couple, but when they are separated from each other for 15 months, they grow and change apart. My husband and I basically had to start over. We had to find that connection that brought us together in the first place. This didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t happen in 3 months, it took a long time and we still work at it to this day.
The next step in my life was to move from teaching adults, to teaching children! I was so excited!
I dove right into substitute teaching (mostly middle school). I took the discipline that I had learned and taught in the military and used it to earn the respect of the students. I also used my story to teach those middle school children about history and current events. My story captivated their attention and left them wanting to learn more. I was so excited to be able to share my story and make it learning experience for children of all ages.
A kindergarten opening became available in the district in which I was substitute teaching and I applied. Now here I am today as a kindergarten teacher, teaching my students about patriotism! Each year for Halloween, I dress up in my Desert Camouflage Uniform to show them that I was a soldier, now a Veteran. I have also designed a showcase dedicated to the soldiers and Veterans related to the students and staff at our school.
Now that you know a little bit of my history, you may understand why Veteran’s Day is so important to me and how each year I try to come up with a new and better way to teach my kindergartners about what Veterans are and why we celebrate them. After meeting Debbie Clement last year and falling in love with her book "Red, White and Blue" I can’t imagine not using it to help teach about patriotism and Veterans. Here's a picture of the quilt that we created last spring, in response to her book. We finished our 19 by 11 foot 'marble-painted' quilt last spring, just in time for Memorial Day. [Click here to see the blog posts about that process.]
This year I needed a new project to do to go with it for my new students. So, while thinking about what kind of project I wanted to do, I came across Michaele Sommerville’s blog, titled "Veterans, We Love You". After reading her blog-post and tearing up, I decided I had to do this project. I took Michaele’s idea to use an open heart and affix the stars in an AB pattern on the heart. But in my mind, I envisioned a quilt, so I was thinking something smaller. That is when I decided to cut out 4 inch white hearts on the Ellison and 1 ½ inch red and blue stars on my Cricut.
Each student was given 6 stars (3 red and 3 blue) and then glued them on in an AB pattern. Then I cut out 6" x 6" purple squares and the students glued their hearts in the center of the square. To complete our quilt, I needed something else but I wasn’t sure what I quite wanted. It was then, right in the middle of my lesson, that I realized I still had extra hearts!! I had the solid hearts left from when I cut out hearts from the Ellison AND I had left over stars! This is when the light came on! I gave each student a solid heart and either a blue or red star to glue in the center of the heart.