Union Intermediate School fourth-grade teacher Brittany Smith began getting a lot of questions from her students wondering why they were not out of school on Halloween, but, insteady, would be getting out on Veterans Day. She, in turn, began asking them about Veterans Day and quickly found out that barely any of them knew what it was or why we celebrated it; some even responding “We are just out because of a teacher workday”.
Having a lot of family members who have served in the military and some that are still in the armed services, Smith, who loves the holiday, told her class it was a day that should be honored, and every American, young and old, should know what Veterans Day stands for.
She wanted to ask a few of her family members to come in and speak about Veterans Day, but distance made that impossible until, finally her cousin, Chris Pearson, said he would be able to come and to talk to the children about Veterans Day, explaining what it’s all about, and the branch of military that he served in.
When Pearson came in, the students were overjoyed and their faces brightened up when they saw that he brought his uniform, helmet, pictures, and more objects that the children were able to see in person. He began by explaining to them that Veterans Day is a United States holiday that honors armed veterans. It coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other parts of the world and also mark the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. He told them that major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11 th hour of the 11th day of the 11 month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice and that is why we always celebrate Veterans Day on November 11 th.
Pearson served in the United States Navy for four years. He was an Aviation Structural Mechanic (Egress Systems) as Petty Officer Second Class (Aviation Warfare Specialist) or more simply AME2(AW). He worked on ejection seats and was a flight deck final checker. Mr. Pearson was in the Operation Desert Fox that lasted 4 days. He served from August of 1995 to August of 1999.
He had many stories for the children ranging from his life on the USS Enterprise to losing friends from jet accidents. He explained that the ship was seven stories high and had everything from a hospital to a dentist’s office and a church to convenience store. He said, “The best way to explain it is that it was an entire city on the ship.”
One of the main stories that the students remember was a jet coming in to land and crashed on the ship where Pearson came very close to losing his life. Due to his actions and heroic measures to save other’s lives, he was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal. About nine years after the incident, Pearson ran into his old Commander in Virginia. As soon as Pearson saw him, his commander knew exactly who he was and said to his wife, “that man saved my life.”
“Veterans Day is a time to honor those that have so graciously given their lives for us and to fight for us when they don’t even know who we are. From all of us at Union Intermediate School, we challenge you to thank a veteran, both who has served and who are still serving; if they have passed away, thank their spouse for the service that they had to give as well,” staff members noted