Students learn the impact of military service

Friday, November 16, 2018
Sherry DeRoos, 4th grade Alta teacher and wife of a three-time-deployed National Guard veteran, talks to students about the impact of service on veterans’ families and how communities can support them. / Photos by Elijah Decious

“Today, it is our privilege to say thank you to all our veterans,” opened Alta-Aurelia High student Maria Kueny at the school’s Tuesday assembly in honor of Veterans Day.

In the midst of patriotic staples like the national anthem, the color guard placing and retrieving flags and the band playing “Proud to be an American,” students were reminded of the impact on veterans’ families each and every day, before, during and after deployment.

Sherry DeRoos, 4th grade teacher at Alta Elementary and mother of four children, has been married to a National Guard veteran, Louis, for 22 years. After joining the National Guard in high school, Louis was deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom for two years, and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan for one year.

Students salute veterans from VFW at Tuesday’s Veterans Day assembly at Alta-Aurelia High School. / Pilot photo by Elijah Decious.

“I know I’m not a veteran, but I’m like a veteran,” Sherry said. She explained the hardships a vet’s family experiences and the little ways the community supported her and her family at home while Louis was away.

“Helping is easier than you think,” she said. Giving time to talk and listen throughout deployment is valued more than you might think. Remind yourself to touch base with families of deployed soldiers regularly. It can get lonely for families, particularly at times not around holidays where they might not be on your mind.

It’s the little moments that deployed family members miss from their children at home: losing a tooth, getting into a fight at recess, seeing them in school plays and football games. These are the things that soldiers can’t hear through 20-minute phone calls once per week.

DeRoos said she was blessed and thankful to have the staff at Alta become her family while Louis was deployed, chocking back tears as her voice broke, in an instant conveying the raw emotion developed through years of pain from sacrifices.

If you want to give more than time, preparing meals and giving parents some down time from taking care of the kids is appreciated, too. “Whatever you can do, it is appreciated,” she said. If help is refused at first, keep offering. They might not be able to accept it the first time out of pride.

During one of Louis’ deployments, his father learned he had cancer, and had a week to live. Louis was denied the chance to go home to say goodbye—he couldn’t come home until his father had died. He was notified of his father’s death a week after the denial, on his birthday.

Families and homes have changed when they come home, Sherry said. Transitions can be particularly difficult for the family that never left. She reminded students to remember to look at the individual behind the uniform.

“A veteran is a person who made a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including their life.”