I had the privilege to be invited to attend a Veteran’s day program put on by my 5 year old grandson’s school. This school is “Caldwell Academy” and is located in Greensboro, North Carolina. It is a K-12 school that has about 750 students. Their biggest event of the year is the Veteran’s Day Program they put on for veterans that have children or family members attending. This school and its’ Veteran’s Day Program demonstrates the “epitome of professionalism and respect” that Caldwell Academy, its teachers and the students have for veterans. The program is in three parts: 1) first class breakfast for everyone; 2) the program honoring veterans; and 3) the opportunity to visit your relative’s classroom and speak on your experiences as a veteran.
We arrived at the school to be met by a couple police officers that had strategically placed there cars, with the emergency lights on, at each side of the entrance. These officers greeted us personally and one shook my hand and thanked me for my service to our country. We were directed which way to turn and where to go. Every 20 feet there was a student, in their school uniform, to answer any questions we might have. My wife was in a wheelchair so we were directed to the main entrance where people were available to assist us if needed. We disembarked and entered the building. Every five feet, there was a student, in uniform, smiling and thanking us for coming.
We were ushered into the auditorium which was set up for a meal. We were seated at a table that had a “military theme” placemat that a student had made. We were immediately offered a drink of our choice.
In a matter of a few moments, my grandson came up to us from behind and gave me and my wife a personalized “Veteran’s Day” card that he had made for us. Everyone there got a card made by their relative. Soon after, the meal was served in a very professionalized manner. The food was delicious and the service superb!
The Head of the School started off by welcoming everyone for coming and fully acknowledging his and the schools personal thanks for the sacrifices that veterans have made for our country. The program was a mix of music, skits, songs, prayers and continual thanks being given to the veterans, for their service to our country, all of which, was done by the students of Caldwell Academy. They even recognized the spouses of veterans by giving each one a single red rose. There was a keynote speaker; a Marine from the late 60’s, to talk about the meaning of being a veteran. The program ended, everyone was very pleased and we were then invited to visit our relative’s classroom to talk a little about our experiences in the military.
We are now getting to the interesting part of this article. We arrived at my grandson’s classroom and went in. There were five other groups of parents there, a teacher and about 15, five year olds. Time for a little background check about this part of the visit: When my daughter, Cindy, first told me that we were going to be invited to this event, she told me I would be asked to speak to the class. She said to the effect, “these are 5 year old children Dad, you’ve got to be careful, what you say to them”. I told her not to worry; I thought I could handle the situation. Well, earlier in the morning, she reminded me again about watching what I said or did, except this time she got a little more specific. She said things like, “Dad, you cannot talk about killing, pillaging, plundering, watches, rings and gold teeth. No bombs, guns, knifes, tanks, explosions, etc… Remember, these were five year old kids.” I was thinking this was going to be a real boring portion of the event. There was going to be little left to say, so I needed to talk something like, “I wore a uniform” or “I marched in the street” of something equally as ridiculous.
There were 4 people/groups that were asked to come up front of the room to talk. We were all standing there and it went something like this:
The first man said he was in the Air Force and after training; he went to some place in Nebraska and worked in the mail room the rest of his time in the service. He got a “deer in the headlights” stare form the kids and the adults, me included.
The second man had done this before and he came with his service and barracks covers for show and tell. He was a Navy Lieutenant. He brought his “3” medals that he had earned during his 6 year stint and passed them around along with his covers. The kids seemed to enjoy trying to put his covers on and play with the medals. One child got his barracks cover all the way down to his chin. He also had a computerized power point presentation showing pictures of the ships he had been on. He talked of the frigates, carriers and LPH’s. I’m sure the kids knew exactly what he was referring to. He had a picture of the “world” and he had drawn a red line on it where his ships had gone. He mentioned that he had been in the Persian Gulf; Suez Canal; around the tip of Africa. Since the kids were at that point in their lives where spelling their names was still a struggle, I thought they learned a lot from this power point. It was colorful though. This person’s son kept raising his hand and telling the class that his dad drove a boat. I could relate to the kid.
Thoughts were racing through my mind because I was next. I thought I could tell them about the time I was on a LST going from Japan to Okinawa and we got into a typhoon. I could mention that while sitting at the Captain’s table, a person fell out of his chair and another one barfed. I figured the kids could easily relate to the barf part. Then, my daughter’s warning, flashed back in my head and I dismissed that part.
Well, the big time came and it was my turn. The teacher introduced me and my wife as Cade’s grandparents and mentioned our name. Our grandson quickly corrected the teacher pointing out that my name was not Jim Vinyard, but it was “Ooh-Rah!” That is the official name that my three grandsons know me as. The teacher asked, in a curious manner, how that came about? I told her that I could not actually answer that because one day my daughter called me and told me that was what they wanted to know me as and asked if that was OK? I said sure. I kind of liked it.
The teacher then asked something to the effect, “Is that not some kind of Marine yell?” My grandson answered for me indicating in the affirmative. The teacher then something about the term, “Marine yell,” and due to the hearing disability I have, I thought she asked me to do the “Marine yell.” I let go with a very loud OOOOooohhh—RRRrrrraaahhhhh!! There were 15 kids and about a dozen adults that jumped and their eyes were about as big as silver dollars! Obviously, they were not prepared for what I did. I felt as if I had just crapped in my own mess-kit! There was a few seconds of composure that was needed and it felt like it lasted minutes. Finally, the teacher asked the class if there were any questions they would like to ask me and one voice asked, “How do you dodge a bullet”? Instinct came out when I said, “Very quickly.”
It was time to move on to the next speaker and here is the part of the story that you have to know my daughter and my personalities and the discussions we had concerning what I could and could not say or do. There was a little old lady that I would estimate was 85+. Her husband was 89 and in a nursing home and could not make the program so she came in his place. She had one of these old paper shopping bags that companies used to give away for shoppers to put stuff in. Well, she started talking and said she would like to show the class some things that her husband brought back from WWII.
The first thing she pulled out was a very long Japanese bayonet and held it up. You could hear a couple “gasps” from people in the room. The kids were mesmerized with their eyes on the bayonet. I turned to Cindy and say something like, “what gives?” I thought we were not allowed to bring things like that? She shrugged her shoulders with a very puzzled look. I felt cheated, because I had one that was in much better shape. Heck, I had the 7.7 Jap rifle that it fit on! Now, that would have been a good show and tell item!
The next thing that happened was the lady pulled the scabbard off. Now, you have to picture this—an 85 year old lady holding a Japanese bayonet in her right hand and the scabbard in her left hand. She did not miss a beat in whatever she way saying. There were many different expressions from the people in the room. I was expecting to see a SWAT Team bust through the door at any moment.
I turned to Cindy again and asked why this lady was allowed to do this and I was not? I was kidding of course, but we then started laughing. Being a combat tested Marine and being upstaged by an old lady, just didn’t seem fair! This lady’s daughter realized what was happening and quietly took the bayonet away from her mother and tried to put it back in the bag. That did not stop the lady. She pulled out another knife that her husband got in Japan during occupation. It looked like a Hari-Kari knife. I turn to Cindy and said the one I got still has blood on the blade! She lost it with those comments. We both were laughing so hard that we started crying. There was one adult couple that were friends with Cindy that knew what was happening and they were laughing with us or at us, I am not sure. The rest of the people had their eyes fixed on the “knife lady.”
The next thing the lady pulled out of her bag was 1 piece of Japanese paper money her husband got. I leaned over to Cindy and said, I got the entire billfold and it is still full. I said there may even be some blood on it, too! Cindy had to put her hand on the wall to stop from falling over she was laughing so hard. I was holding on to my wife’s wheel chair to help stabilize me!
Well, the “knife lady” stopped pulling things out of her bag and Cindy and I tried to regain our composure. The little old lady had no clue what was happening, but her daughter did and she was embarrassed. Cindy and I both told her not to be concerned in any manner. I do not know if we have ever laughed this hard together before.
We started to leave the building and a man walked up to me and wanted to shake my hand and he was smiling when he said to me, “You are the real thing and I just wanted to shake your hand.” I hope that was a compliment.
Cindy stayed in the classroom, after we left, to explain to the teacher what had just happened. I have written a letter, not only to the teacher, but also the head of the school thanking them for allowing us to partake in a very enjoyable event. I made a $100.00 donation to the school to apply to their 2011 Veteran’s Day Program. My side still aches from the laughing that took place. I just wanted to share my experience. It was too much fun not to bring it to you.