Take a Veteran to School Day

By: Natasha Sweatte Email
By: Natasha Sweatte Email
Students at College Hills Elementary received a hands-on lesson they

First graders made Col. Glenn Starnes a book full of thank you notes for his 30 years of service in the U.S. Marines

Students at College Hills Elementary received a hands-on lesson they'll likely never forget. They learned the true meaning of Veteran's Day firsthand from a dedicated veteran Friday.

Col. Glenn Starnes served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 30 years and now is the assistant Commandant Operations Training and Academics for the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University. However, on Friday he started his day by teaching a group of first graders how to pay attention and even how to properly do a pushup.

"Class, attention!"

Students quickly obeyed Col. Starnes like a true drill sergeant. Although these youngsters may not fully grasp just how many sacrifices this man has made for his country, they seemed to understand his service was selfless and for the advancement of their country in some aspect.

Col. Starnes said people weren't always grateful to those fighting for our country and used Vietnam as a prime example.

“Those service members came home and there weren’t any parades for them," said Col. Starnes. "They came home to people who looked at them and said, 'you’re in the military, I’m going to cross the street, and I don’t want to see you.”

Col. Starnes attended A&M from 1977 through 1981 and said he can see a drastic difference among students and their respect level for those who have served.

Col. Starnes said he believes the hearts of Americans began to change after the First Gulf War in the early 1990s. He said now it’s almost second nature for people to thank service members for their sacrifices.

“People are recognizing that you’re serving in the military; it may be a job to you, it may be a calling to you, but everyone else appreciates that you are in the military so they don’t have to serve,” said Col. Starnes.

When speaking with Col. Starnes, it's easy to feel his passion for our country and his willingness to help others. News 3 asked him why he thought it was important to teach the younger generations what Veteran's Day truly means.

"Even now, if you start talking about the freedoms they enjoy because they take it all for granted, even my generations takes their freedoms for granted, until you go to countries where those freedoms don't exist," said Col. Starnes. He said many women still can't attend college in other countries, a simple freedom many of us easily overlook.

Asael Paniagua served as a Corporal in the U.S. Marines for eight years and now teaches second grade at College Hills Elementary. He said he can apply many of the same tactics he learned on the battlefield into the classroom.

"In war, you have to learn how to be patient and things don't always turn out the way you want them to and what you have to do is overcome and adapt," said Paniagua.

He teaches kids who speak English or Spanish as their first language. One week the lesson is in Spanish, the next week the lesson is in English, or vice versa.

"You can have maybe 40 kids having different needs," Paniagua explained.

He teaches his students to also push through their comfort zone to adapt to the real world. Paniagua and one of his colleagues spearheaded Friday's event of veterans visiting classrooms. He said it's extremely important for kids to know history is alive and well.

"We want the students to see hey there are people still living that have protected our country and eventually they'll be in the history books," Paniagua smiled.

More schools in the College Station School District are planning to do more of these hands on lessons this Monday, Veterans Day.

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