Today We Honor Heroes: Veterans, Military Service Men and Women (and Uncle Ralph)

As superintendent, I often tell people that I have the best job in the world … and I do. Working with other dedicated professionals, many of whom are military veterans, who are passionate about preparing our students for college or the workforce, is such a fulfilling experience for me. That is why I feel it is so important for us to take time to genuinely thank our veterans and military servicemen and women – the people who have sacrificed so much to protect and serve our nation, keeping it a free and safe place for our students as they grow into adulthood.
UncleRalphLike many of our students, I am the proud descendant of veterans. I tweeted late last night about my beloved, late Uncle Ralph, whose sacrifice and service to our country and to his family continues to make me proud.

Uncle Ralph served as a paratrooper in the U. S. Army Elite Special Forces, also known as Green Berets. He volunteered for duty as soon as he finished high school and saw multiple tours during his six years of service, including action in Santo Domingo. He passed away around this time last year, and I will always remember his impact on my personal and professional life. I’m sharing a few photos from when we paid our final respects to him with a visit to Yellowstone National Park. (I miss you Uncle “Smalph.”)

Riding with my aunt earlier this year to honor our hero, Uncle Ralph!

Riding with my aunt earlier this year to honor our hero, Uncle Ralph!

What a view! Great way to remember my favorite veteran.

What a view at Yellowstone! Great way to remember my favorite veteran.

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As we celebrate Veteran’s Day, I am equally proud to lead a school district that is honoring this holiday in so many wonderful ways:

I hope our service men and women have a sweet tooth! Look at all that candy!

I hope our service men and women have a sweet tooth! Look at all that candy!

— This week, students at Morris Brandon Elementary School will send 1,092 pounds of candy they collected on Halloween to U. S. service men and women stationed all over the world. Morris Brandon Assistant Principal Tiffany Momon said: “As an International Baccalaureate school, we stress the importance of being risk takers and world leaders to our students. This speaks to how our students take that to heart. They are risking and sacrificing their own happiness of eating their Halloween candy by giving it away for someone else to enjoy, and they are displaying leadership by stepping up to ensure that our troops know that they are appreciated.”

— Yesterday and today, cadets in the Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy JROTC are providing the color guard escorts for Veteran’s Day activities at The Coca-Cola Company Headquarters. Additionally, they are serving in the USO’s “Operation Care Package,” an effort to make 10,000 care packages for service men and women overseas.

Members of the Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy JROTC unit with (far left) Sierra Grigsby, Administrative Work Coordinator for the USO, and Dr. Mona Venning, CSKYWLA JROTC Program Coordinator. Cadets participated in the USO’s “Operation Care Package,” helping to create 10,000 care packages to send to U.S. servicemen and women stationed overseas.

Members of the Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy JROTC unit with (far left) Sierra Grigsby, Administrative Work Coordinator for the USO, and Dr. Mona Venning, CSKYWLA JROTC Program Coordinator. Cadets participated in the USO’s “Operation Care Package,” helping to create 10,000 care packages to send to U.S. servicemen and women stationed overseas.

— As a native of Alabama, I am super excited for the Mays High School JROTC unit which today will honor a group of true American heroes, the Tuskegee Airmen, when they participate in the Atlanta Chapter Tuskegee Airmen Second Annual Veterans Day program.

Two-star U. S. Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith

APS alumni and two-star U. S. Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith will visit Douglass Thursday.

— And tomorrow, the day after Veteran’s Day is officially observed, Douglass High School will welcome one of its own back to campus. Two-star U. S. Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith will return to his alma mater to be honored for his distinguished record of service to the nation.

On behalf of the Atlanta Public Schools family, I say, “Thank you.”

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