Pardon for our huge hiatus! We have been quite busy at King High School. The beginning of 2nd Semester means we are in full swing of King High Remembers planning!
Please let me introduce myself. My name is Jalyn Barnard and aside from teaching, I am what John calls our program’s “Operations Manager”. I am in my 9th year of teaching and King has always been my home. I love my job, I love my colleagues and I love our veterans oral history project.
Each junior has “their vet”. They ask about their vet after they mail their thank you card and narratives back, “Did my vet say anything? Did they mail anything back?” When they become a senior, they often say, “Have you heard from so and so? How are they?”
I started teaching during the 2006-2007 school year. I was 23 years old, a mere 5-6 years older than my 12th grade students. I knew we had a program called King High Remembers but I didn’t really “know”. We now-a-days joke that you don’t truly understand what the program is like until you’re smack dab in the middle of it, surrounded by hundreds of people laughing, joking, taking and crying.
As a newbie teacher and newbie KHR team member, Micki Ward took me under her wing. Micki was John’s right hand – woman at the time and I knew the night they took me out to dinner they were grooming me for something.
My first year teaching, I had 2 classes of US History kids who I broke down into groups. These 25 or so groups of kids had “their vet”. That morning, I had no idea of what I walking into and seeing it for the first time is almost indescribable. I was in awe. I just knew, I was a part of something special.
I gravitated to a group of kids who had the sweetest man. His name was Lou. I lingered and listened for a while and then moved onto other groups, but I kept coming back because he kept making the kids laugh. When I came back a second time, I joked, “if my kids aren’t being good, you tell me! I’ll take care of it!” He looked at me with a smile and a laugh and said, “You’re their teacher?! We’ll come on over!” He started to show me magic tricks. I can’t tell you what tricks he showed me, but I can tell you how at ease he made me feel. It was my first year teaching and I had a whole set of worries. I felt too young, too nervous and not teacher material. He joked and make me laugh and drew me in with his story of being a Pearl Harbor survivor. In between his jokes and stories of how the ladies love him, he would slip in his stories of flying, but before it got too sad, he would pull a dollar from behind your ear.
Years later, King held a “salute to veterans” football game. We invited the vets, and I sat with Lou for a chunk of the game. He was in his walker and didn’t want to make a big fuss, so he sat on lower level away from most of the other vets. He talked with me about going to Hawaii for a Pearl Harbor reunion, he told me stories about the shenanigans he got into when he was younger and he slipped in a ton of jokes and laughs. I rode with him in the golf cart to shuttle him back to his car (which was decorated with a small American flag and Pearl Harbor Survivor Plaque. He endearingly left his car unlocked!) I helped put his walker in his car and away he went with a smile, a joke and a laugh.
Lou passed in 2012 and while he probably didn’t remember those brief encounters with me, I sure do. They stick with me. This was a program that didn’t just mean something to the kids and the school, but it meant something to me.
So that my friends, is my story of my first vet and my first King High Remembers. Each year, my list of vets grow. When I sit on the phone and chat with them, when I stop and listen to a story, when they email, when they want to give us their thanks my heart just grows more and more attached. I see the value these vets and this program give to my classes. For many of these kids, King High Remembers is a “right of passage”. They want to be a part of something that that is just so special.
So I tell my students, that’s why we do all this work. The long nights, the crazy weekends full of catching up and all of the time spent over the summer to plan is worth it when you walk in and see the magic that happens.
Jalyn and Lou. King High Remembers 2007.