GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Seven local veterans sat down with students from Absegami High School on Monday to give a first-hand history lesson as part of the school’s Veterans Day observations.
“Most veterans out there, we appreciate the love and support from adults, but it means a lot more when it comes from the kids,” said Mike Sears, 41, of Galloway, a senior master sergeant in the Air National Guard.
This year, school was not in session on Veterans Day, which fell on a Saturday, so districts around the region are holding events to honor veterans throughout the week.
At small tables in the Absegami library, conversations between the veterans and students ranged from accounts of battle, treatment of veterans, post traumatic stress and current events such as the national anthem protest.
Before he joined the 177th Fighter Wing, Sears was a corporal in the U.S. Marines serving in the Middle East and western Pacific, where he earned a Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Sears said he enjoys attending events with the community to not only show his appreciation for their support but to bring awareness about veterans’ issues. As someone who struggled with his mental health after his service ended, Sears said, speaking in public helped him.
Absegami Principal Jeri-Lynn Vernon said she wanted to make history real for her students and that Veterans Day is not the only day people can honor veterans.
“We are in the business of education, so if we’re teaching about history, we have an obligation to make it as relevant as possible,” she said. “Who knows, maybe we inspire a student to participate.”