From Veterans To Teachers

Drill+Sergeant+James+Watkins+served+in+the+army+before+becoming+a+teacher.

Courtesy Photo

Drill Sergeant James Watkins served in the army before becoming a teacher.

Every year on Nov. 11, America honors veterans with celebrations all over the country. Many veterans served our country twice: once in the United States Armed Forces and again as teachers and administrators. Leonard Cousins, Shelene Anderson, Craig Rabalais, Howard Ritz, Rodney Nutley, Sean Johnson, James Watkins, Michael Asato, Andrew Gillespie, Barry Thornton and Tameka Seaman dedicated their lives to both our country and our students. 

“I think Veterans Day is a time to reflect on the accomplishments of veterans of past, present, and even the ones that are coming in the future,” Cousins said. “I honor all my brothers and sisters who gave their life for this great country.” 

Assistant Principal Leonard Cousins served in the United States Army from 1981 to 2002. When he reflects back on his most memorable times in the service, he often remembers his time in Germany in 1986. 

“Being thousands of miles away from home, you have a chance to really think about your life,” Cousins said. “I think my life on a personal note came together and I was on more of a solid ground.”

While serving in the 82nd Airborne Division, Cousins received orders to go to Korea, which would move him far away from his family. A call to the branch sergeant major secured him a job as an ROTC instructor at Texas Christian University. After a few years there, he moved to teach Junior ROTC at Haltom High School in Birdville. 

“I was going to go over to work at Lockheed Martin and I was going to make some good money over there, but it wouldn’t have been what I wanted to do,” Cousins said. “I like working with young people, working with troops, with cadets. Ultimately, with students.”

During this time, he pursued his master’s degree in educational leadership and became an assistant principal at Haltom High School.  

Leilani Fierro

“It just sort of meshed with the other gifts and talents that I have. I like working with people, I like training people,” Cousins said. “I’ve always had a passion to see people succeed.”

Shelene Anderson spent four years actively serving in the United States Army and an additional eight in the IRR. She made lifelong friends in all branches of the military and overcame her fear of heights through her training. Anderson practiced repelling over walls and towers during her drills. 

“It was terrifying but I’m better for it,” Anderson said. “I know I can do things even when I’m really afraid.”

For Anderson, joining the military was a family tradition and a point of honor. After an injury ended her time in the army, she returned to college to study history. Previously, Anderson never felt a calling to teach, but she has now invested in students for 18 years. She wants all students to understand the sacrifices all veterans made. 

“Remember on Veteran’s Day that no matter how people got to the military or for whatever reason, all of those people signed on a dotted line–a contract–giving up certain freedoms, certain privileges, so that people in the U.S. and other countries can have them,” Anderson said.  “It means you value others at least as much as you value yourself.”

Leilani Fierro

Major Sean Johnson served in the U.S. Army for 24 years, leading troops into combat on four occasions. When he was in post-grad school, he felt a calling to teach. Encouraged by a former navy JROTC instructor, Johnson started teaching Junior ROTC. He recognizes Veterans Day as a time to celebrate the men and women who have served. 

“Veterans Day means taking time during that day to honor and appreciate the sacrifices that every military veteran has made to defend our nation and those that cannot defend themselves,” Johnson said. 

Cousins has seen soldiers, some of them friends, come back from assignments scarred and maimed. They aren’t the same people they once were, but they made that sacrifice to protect our freedoms. He wants students to take time to truly understand the meaning of Veterans Day.

“It’s a time for me to reflect, even on my career and the things that I was able to accomplish. It’s not really about me. Really, it’s about our country,” Cousins said. “The one thing I want, the one message I wish I could give to our country is that you need to honor those who serve, not just on election day and not just when it’s politically convenient, but all the time.”

Students can bring any veteran in their life to lunch on Veterans Day, but we shouldn’t forget that some of the teachers we see every day risking their lives to uphold the rights and freedoms of our country. 

“In the old days, we used to say ‘freedom ain’t free.’ The truth is, freedom costs a lot,” Cousins said. “We have the right to do what we do because people paid that price, and they paid it in blood.”

We have a lot of people right now in nursing homes, in rehabilitation centers, in wheelchairs, with significant brain injuries. They’re not even the same people anymore. But they thought that this country was worth it. I think every veteran in this building should receive a handshake from every kid in this building. That’s what I think.””

— Leonard Cousins

I believe we should honor those that have guarded our freedom. We should all take every opportunity to learn about how our Constitution serves each of us in every aspect of our lives.” ”

— James Watkins

It is the ultimate sacrifice to give up one’s life for their country. It only takes a second…if you see someone in uniform, wearing a veteran’s cap, or know someone who has served (currently or passed) just tell them ‘Thank you for serving’. Veterans know what this means and it is an honor to hear it.” ”

— -Michael Asato

When you see a veteran on Veterans Day you can say “Thank you for your service” or you can say to them “Thank you for caring so selflessly for others that you would sacrifice so much.” Happy Veterans’ Day.” ”

— Shelene Anderson

Freedom isn’t free. Many lives have been given so that we can sleep under the blanket of freedom that we are blessed with in the USA. I would encourage people to be thankful for the blessing of living in the USA.” ”

— Rodney Nutley

Literally every freedom you enjoy, right you possess, luxury you lavish in, sport you play and security you benefit from is directly attributed to our nation’s military veterans’ willingness to lay down their lives for you!””

— Sean Johnson