2007-11-08 / Columnists

We should honor our veterans every day of the year

by Linda Scordino

I have the privilege of teaching Communications at Suffolk Community College. One of the courses that I teach is called Introduction to Human Communications. It is a basic level course where students learn communication theory as well as the skills needed to give public speeches. Many students are usually overwhelmed by the prospect of giving a speech and must be guided through the process with reassurance that they can do it.

My students come from different communities, backgrounds, ages, and experiences. I learn a tremendous amount from my students and only hope that by the end of the semester they have learned as much from me as I have from them. I have been teaching there for 7 years and have come to distinguish certain learning patterns, behaviors, attitudes, and needs among college students. There are those students who distinguish themselves from the very beginning and some who develop during the semester.

This semester I have a student who distinguished himself from the beginning and this is the purpose of my letter. "Carlos" sits in the front of the class during every lecture. He receives an A on every test, always has his homework done, can answer any question from the assigned reading, is polite, respectful, inquisitive, well-mannered, and attentive. However, he is very quiet in the class. If ask a question, he answers. Nothing more. Of course, I was curious. Not your typical college behavior!!! We were beginning preparation for public speaking and I told the students to think about something that might interest them. What were their hobbies, interests, concerns, and career goals? If they are interested in something, it would show in their presentation. "Talk about what you know about" is what I told them. We then broke up into small groups to discuss this and I went from group to group to help guide the discussion. When I got to Carlos' group, I asked what his topic was. With his head down he said, "I don't have anything to discuss that would interest the class." I wouldn't accept his answer. I kept asking him questions about his life outside of college. You could see that he was hesitant. My usual questions are -"What sports do you like? What kinds of books/magazines do you read? What is your favorite music? Where do you work?" Carlos was quiet. My curiosity was increasing - not to mention the fact that I was not going to give up on this kid!!! Finally, in a quiet voice with his head down, he said, "I'm in the Reserves and I just got back from Iraq recently." In a very loud voice (because I am a very loud person) I said, "What?! You're in the Reserves? You just got back from Iraq and you think that no one would be interested in that?" Of course, all the students jumped. I turned to the class and said, "How many people in this room want to know about Carlos' experiences in the reserves?" Every hand went up. Suddenly, Carlos began to smile. I told Carlos that I thought it would be an excellent idea to wear his uniform during the presentation. He asked why. One student said, "There is respect attached to that uniform." Carlos told me that he didn't think anyone would care but then left with a big smile on his face.

How sad that someone like Carlos might feel that people might not care about the job he is doing? What does that say about us? I was happy that he left the way he did but sad that he initially didn't think anyone would care. Carlos was absent from the next class. I was concerned. He is never absent. When I arrived home from class, my phone was ringing. When I answered the phone I heard, "Professor Scordino, this is Carlos, your reservist." I don't think my smile could have been any bigger. I asked why he wasn't in class. He said, "I'm not going to lie. I overslept. (Class begins at 6:30 a.m.) I'm very upset that I missed class. I want to make up the work. What can I do?" Again I smiled. I should have recognized this type of behavior. I have had reservists in my classes before - bright, respectful, hardworking, dedicated, community minded young citizens.

I am writing this as Veterans Day approaches. We need to do something about the many men and women of the Armed Forces who may feel that no one is interested in the job that they are doing. Carlos is not alone. I urge everyone to support them with your time, words of support, and gestures. Support the organizations that give to our soldiers and vote for those candidates who will make sure that they receive the benefits and respect that they deserve. Let's give these men and women the respect that they deserve on Veterans Day and EVERY DAY.

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