Articles, activities for boomers & seniors
While on active duty, our military men and women dedicate their lives to protecting and preserving our country, often in faraway lands, or at least isolated on military bases. For many, service to their country doesn't stop once they are discharged — they continue to serve locally, giving them a chance to meet the citizens they serve, and giving those citizens a glimpse into life in the military. Following are just two examples.
The Reading Brigade
Military veterans volunteer to read books to young schoolchildren.
The Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council officially sponsors the program called, "The Reading Brigade." We have been doing this for several years. We have participated in elementary schools in the greater Bethlehem school district.
When we get an assignment, the men report to the designated school. There are usually two to four men from Chapter 415 and perhaps another individual or two from LVMAC. After meeting with the principal, we are given the books to look over. We are dispatched to the classrooms to read each page to the students. Students will leave their desks and sit on rugs around you. Typically, we do 4 to 6 classes — Grades 1 – 3 and 3 – 4 — before the morning is done. After we read to the students, we usually field any questions the students may have about the book or military life in general. Each school will receive approximately 6 books for their media center for students to check out after we leave.
The program is very easy and gratifying on a personal level. Both students and teachers are very appreciative of the time we are giving the children. All books are at an elementary level and not more than a dozen pages. Many students are eager to talk about their relatives that have served in the military.
George Puzio — Vietnam Veteran
We go to elementary schools and read books to the students. Many of them have questions about the military and what it is like being away from home. They also like to tell stories about their family members being in the military or as a police officer or a fireman. The students also enjoy having their picture taken with real military veterans. They are very thankful for our presence, and so are the faculty members. I believe our presence in their school gives these kids a sense of security — they feel safer. We also talk to them and let them know how important education is, and that in time they may very well be the ones ruling this country. We also go to high schools and talk with kids ready for graduation. Some of them want to go into the military and we explain as much as possible the difference between civilian and military life. Some have questions about wartime and we talk to them at an appropriate level.
Richard Sam — Vietnam Veteran
Patriot Guard Riders
When a veteran dies, his or her family can request an honor guard called the "Patriot Guard Riders." It is composed of veterans who will stand in a flag line outside the funeral home; each veteran will hold the American flag at the shoulder. It is our way of honoring those who have served. At the appropriate time, we will line up, go inside, and pass by the remains of the veteran while doing a hand salute.
If the family chooses, we will lead the procession to the cemetery site for the services. Many of us will ride motorcycles as we lead the procession. After the services, we speak to the family briefly and then disperse.
The PGR program is now run throughout the United States and is run primarily by Vietnam veterans.