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Historians on the Road

We're missing just two of the eight ABMC teachers in this photo. From left to right, Jason, Gena, Suzy, Jeannine, Leif, Kaat, and me. 

Eight of us are participants in this program. We teach from around the country in a rather wide variety of settings. Each of us was tasked with the same assignment: to honor a fallen soldier or sailor by eulogizing him by his final resting place. Let me tell you a little more about the group.

There are seven in the photo above, and six of the seven are teachers in the program. Kaat is not currently a teacher but instead a staff member of the ABMC who came with us on the trip. She was a wonderful addition on the trip, and not just for her language skills (which helped with directions and menu deciphering). In addition to becoming a friend of us, she also delivered a stirring eulogy for a G.I. of Belgian descent buried at Luxembourg.

Alan and Amy are missing from the photo, though. Alan, who teaches in Indiana, has an amazing talent for getting the answer to be yes when it really should be no. That's a gift. He's also ridiculously observant. Amy, who was with her mom seeing the sights at the time of this photo, teaches in New Mexico. She reminds me of a few very good teachers I've worked with over the years. In some ways I expect her to be teaching next door to me this fall.

Cathy and I in Brussels. 

Of course there were other important folks who came along with us. Cathy is the executive director, the one from whom this concept of a program came nearly a decade ago. It must be gratifying to see what it's done over the past few years. The program, by the way, is called Understanding Sacrifice. And it's made it possible for nearly all the sites in the ABMC network to receive visits from teachers who have authored eulogies for servicemen buried there. The best staff development I've ever had.

I'm sorry. That sounds stiff. It's not meant to be. Cathy's vision led to a program that allowed me to sharpen some historical skills that had been at risk of going dormant. It's allowed me to more powerfully connect with a great student than I otherwise could have. It's given me an additional network of colleagues that I wouldn't have otherwise met.

Jeannine, Alan, and I atop a Sherman. When does this ever happen at one's school? 

And that network of colleagues doesn't get pulled down into the mud of a school's foibles and warts. I have great friends at East. We can sometimes get mired in the nuisances of a campaign in a building, and by the end of even a good year the friendship can get too colored by problems we're seeing and sharing. This is a set of friends and peers where our collegiality can happen in a happier and more abstract forum. It's very meaningful.

An outstanding professor, Christopher, was with us also. He's made some key recommendations about what to read regarding the era and what angles to investigate that have given me new chances to look at and learn from World War II. Another staff member, Chris, is a maestro of videography and photography. I'm envious of how he can marry a love for and understanding of history with the technical gifts he possesses. Another staff member, and old friend, Lynne was unable to join us this time. However, Marion very capably filled in and lent a gentle, motherly touch to our crew, something that was very valuable.

This is a unique and uncommon group with which to spend a week. Friends. Peers. Lovers of history. Learners.

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