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Understanding what a veteran is

Lilly Reynen, left, Nicole Justice and McKenna Berg, all fourth-graders at Banfield Elementary School, have breakfast Friday with Navy veteran Joe Roche and his wife, of Austin. The Roches have three sons who are veterans. Roche served as a boilerman on a destroyer escort "between the wars," he said, in the late 1950s.

The Alternative Learning Center didn't have anything planned to honor Veterans Day. So student Heather Christianson, 17, decided she wanted to make something happen. While the ALC held its assembly Thursday, all of Austin Public Schools also honored Veterans Day by having breakfast with veterans this morning.

Christianson's father was in the military for 22 years, and putting together a Veterans Day program for ALC students was all her idea, she said.

"I don't think that in the schools, people don't understand what a veteran is," Christianson said. "I just thought it was important that they should know a little bit more."

Christianson put together the program, with some help from her teachers, for the ALC students Thursday in the annex auditorium at Austin High School. She wanted to say the Pledge of Allegiance, sing the Star Spangled Banner and have some informational history of Veterans Day be read aloud at the program.

ALC social studies teacher Charles Brandt spoke about his time in the Marines. Samantha Hall showed a video and talked about her life at home with her young son, while her husband is in the Middle East in the Army National Guard. Hall is the daughter of ALC language arts teacher Shirley Morgan.


This is the first year a Veterans Day program has been presented to the ALC students.

"I wanted it to be an ALC thing," Christianson said. "We just wanted to start off small this year."

Brandt entered the Marines in 1972; he's considered a Vietnam-era veteran, although he never went overseas. To give students some perspective, he recalled that when he joined, gas cost 56 cents per gallon, and a stamp cost 10 cents.

He had wanted to be a sniper, but instead ended up in electronics school. From there, he worked on top-secret code scramblers and had a top-secret security clearance, he said.

"It was a very important job," Brandt said. "It was pretty exciting stuff, actually."

Brandt showed some photos and told stories from his time in the military. He had three years of active duty followed by three years of inactive reserves.

"I was a 20-year-old sergeant," Brandt said. "I was very, very proud of that."

He encouraged the ALC students to "seriously consider going into the military." He noted the benefits include health care and college tuition.


Hall also talked about the benefits, but at the same time, said she and her husband Jordan Hall have spent maybe six months together in the two years they've been married, she said. Jordan has missed both of their son Talan's birthdays, she said.

"It's not easy," Hall said. "I wish I could say that it was. ... It is worth it for what he does for our freedom."

Christianson ended the program with some final words about veterans, because she wanted students to better understand who veterans are and what they do.

"They're the reason we have our textbooks. They're the reason we have our desks," Christianson said. "I really hope you guys learned something today."

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