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'Artistic and Literary Responses to War' gives students front-row history lesson from veterans
Posted 11/18/2014 06:00PM

For many, Veterans Day is a special time to reflect on the sacrifices made by men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces. For students in Jordan Adair's "Artistic and Literary Responses to War" class, that appreciation runs deeper than for most, perhaps — they hear about veterans' lives and sacrifices firsthand one to three times a week throughout the semester-long course.

"One of the main goals of my course is to connect high school students with the stories of America's military veterans through study and class visits," Adair said. "In reading literature and studying other artistic responses to war and in hearing veterans tell their stories firsthand, my students can come as close as possible to understanding what veterans have experienced, and in the process have a greater appreciation for their sense of duty, service to their country, and sacrifice."

Programming during the week of Veteran's Day offers a snapshot of what makes the senior elective course so meaningful and perennially popular with students. On Monday, Missy Cummings, one of the Navy’s first female fighter pilots and an expert on drones, visited the class. On Thursday, the entire Upper School student body heard from Vietnam veteran Sgt. Jesse Torres and Army psychiatrist Dr. Bruce Capehart. To wrap up the week on Sunday, class members organized a tribute ceremony at Croasdaile Village for residents who served in World War II. The moving ceremony was featured on the front page of The Herald-Sun.

Cummings, a Durham Academy parent, is well known for her expertise on drones, as featured on The Daily Show. But the Duke engineering professor focused her discussion with DA students on her experiences as a trailblazer in the Navy. It wasn't easy, she said when describing her life at the U.S. Naval Academy, where women comprised less than 10 percent of the student body.

"It was an everyday affair to walk to class and be oinked and mooed at," she said. "It's hard for women."

Capehart, who is also a DA parent, was deployed to Afghanistan as a psychiatrist. He and Torres spoke to the importance of looking beyond the stereotypes of crazed veterans that Hollywood and the news media perpetuate. They encouraged students to strive to see the human beings who are struggling with readjustment and the trauma of what they have experienced.

This is the first year that Adair's class has organized the Croasdaile tribute ceremony. After each student was paired with a veteran, they conducted interviews either in person or over the phone. The students then wrote tributes to the veterans and presented them at the ceremony.

“I really didn’t have a lot of knowledge about veterans and all they went through, so it’s been awesome to do that,” senior Justin Warren was quoted as saying in The Herald-Sun piece. “They’ve given up so much for us; the least we can do is hear their stories.”

An independent, coeducational day school, pre-kindergarten through grade 12.
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