USA: Sailors Share Their Experiences with Students amid Week of Valor

Sailors Share Their Experiences with Students amid Week of Valor

More than 50 active-duty service members and veterans from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Naval Station Mayport and other area military commands visited 70 elementary, middle and high school classrooms Nov. 5-9 in support of the Week of Valor.

The city-sponsored initiative, Week of Valor, is designed to showcase Jacksonville as one of the most military-friendly cities in the country.

Volunteers visited classrooms in small groups and spoke to students about what it means to serve in the military. They also stressed the importance of observing Veterans Day. According to Suzanne Speight, a public affairs specialist with Navy Region Southeast who coordinated the visits, the efforts of those who volunteered are invaluable to maintaining a good relationship with the community.

“The Navy and the military are such a big part of the First Coast community and it is so important for people to know who we are and what we do,” she said.

Speight said she appreciated the efforts of service members from Blount Island Command and Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, as well.

“This was a tremendous joint effort with Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, along with veterans from the retired community,” she said.

Throughout the week, the groups spoke to students in dozens of schools, sharing personal experiences in the military, views on Veterans Day and their own school-day experiences. They also answered hundreds of questions about their careers and the military in general.

“We were treated to a wonderful Veterans Day presentation during our community’s Week of Valor,” said Khaki Hager, an eighth-grade history teacher at Mandarin Middle School. “Lieutenant Wilhelm, Lieutenant Commander Lazenka and Lieutenant Verducci spoke to our team of students and gave a fantastic presentation filled with valuable information. Our students learned so much and we know they are better prepared today for their futures.”

Southeast Region Master Chief Mack Ellis said he takes great pride in knowing that his Sailors had a positive impact on the students.

“In my opinion, our Sailors and Marines wear the cloth of our nation. We’re role models and mentors for our youth,” he said. “We need to realize the impact and the difference we can make by providing inspiration to the youth of our country. They are our future leaders and we need to be at the forefront of their development.”

Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown spoke in a similar tone during his opening remarks at a military appreciation luncheon Nov. 8.

“Our military and veterans community already has given so much to our nation. It’s an inspiring sight to see these brave men and women continue to give back in our schools,” Brown said. “This outreach effort is about pairing the leaders of today with the leaders of tomorrow.”

He also expressed his gratitude to the 900-plus veterans, active duty military members and military leaders in attendance.

“It’s always a humbling thought to think about the sacrifices made by the men and women of our military,” Brown said. “I’m honored to work with so many dedicated business leaders and community partners to say thank you for their service and dedication.”

This year’s Week of Valor was the first time Jacksonville has hosted such an event, but the city plans to make it an annual occasion. In addition to school speaking engagements, the Week of Valor also featured a military appreciation luncheon, a job fair, a Veterans Day Parade, the Navy-Marine Corps Carrier Classic college basketball game between Florida and Georgetown aboard USS Bataan (LHD 5), and a military appreciation football game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts.

Naval Today Staff, November 12, 2012; Image: US Navy