‘A Soldier’s Experience’ Educates

Panel of veterans share their stories and answer questions

From professional to deeply personal, four military veterans shared their stories with members of the Kettle Run community.

The event, which took place on Tuesday, April 2 in the auditorium, was organized by psychology teacher Jessica Murphy.

Speakers were Colonel Wayne Murphy, Army; Matthew Dreher, Marines; John Kiecana, Air Force; and Paul Schreifels, National Guard. Chris Murphy, Army, was the moderator.

Mrs. Murphy invited psychology, sociology, and sports medicine classes to learn about Post Traumatic Stress Injury. Bill Davidson’s CTE class attended to learn about military technology and engineering opportunities. David Kuzma’s history class attended to hear about how war has changed over the years.

“Initially, I was interested in the students developing a greater appreciation of military veterans,” Kuzma said. “I believe the takeaway was how the Veterans stressed how the students should develop plans for their future.”

Speakers shared their experiences with being deployed, deciding they wanted to join the military, what they learned while serving, and returning home. Along with stories that carry painful memories, the speakers shared lighthearted stories of the memories they made with their fellow soldiers.

Students were encouraged to ask questions.

Senior Gwyn Newcomb asked if being thanked for their service is gratifying or reminds them of negative, traumatic experiences.

“I learned we have to be more mindful when thanking people for their service,” Newcomb said. “That instead we could say ‘Thank you for your sacrifice’ and then start an actual conversation with them.”

Senior Harper Crater also learned a lot.

“The veterans who spoke to us had really interesting perspectives on reentering society after high stress situations and how those experiences affected their mental health,” Crater said. “It was a lot to take in. They were open with us and very blunt about their experiences – there was no sugar coating their traumas. I think my biggest takeaway was the experiences they’ve had, though not entirely bad, have directly impacted them as much as they have my experiences and freedoms as a citizen of the US.”

The presentation made senior Drew Nowland consider joining the military.

“I’ve always thought about joining the Air Force because that’s what my dad did when he graduated high school,” Nowland said. “But listening to the veterans talk about their experiences, it really is motivating me to join the Air Force. Kids nowadays don’t understand how much of their lives people have given away to serve out country and give us freedom. That’s why we need veterans to come in and talk about what they do to give us freedom.”

Mrs. Murphy was proud of how well students behaved during the presentation.

“The audience cared and listened and wanted to know more,” Murphy said. “I was extremely proud of our Kettle Run students.”

Murphy hopes that students left with a stronger appreciation for those who served.

“These men shared personal experiences that were full of pride and emotion and each story carried the emphasis that you, the individual, make your success in life,” Mrs. Murphy said. “Effort, intent, drive, amd grit are important in becoming what you want to be in life.”