Each year Thomson –McDuffie Middle School students learn about the sacrifices veterans made to give them the freedoms of today.

The school hosts a Veterans Day program where they learn history and why it is important to remember. Roger Dowdney, a middle school teacher and U.S. Navy veteran spoke of the importance of Veterans Day, which dates back to 1918, while giving an overview of honoring all veterans, whether living or dead.  

In Georgia, there are roughly 690,000 veterans and of those there are 97,000 veteran businesses, Dowdney said.  He reported that 16 million Americans served in World War II and in 2018, at least one-half million of them were still living. He said approximately 21 million veterans are still living.

Dowdney answered the question of what he did in the Navy by reciting the poem Snipe’s Lament, which details the activities of the men who sail below.

Each year a speaker, from a branch of the military, offers the students a synopsis of their experiences. Veterans in attendance are recognized.

The Nov. 8 speaker was Sgt. Darryl Wallace, a U.S. Army veteran and a 2003 graduate of Thomson High School. Wallace said he joined the Army following the terrorists attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. “I remember sitting in computer class when the terrorists struck the Twin Towers,” he said. “Something just hit my heart. It was something that I never thought too much about. I never thought about the military until then,” he said.

After receiving airborne infantry training at Fort Benning and being a part of duty stations in the United States and getting married and having a son, he went to Afghanistain in January 2007. There he was a part of light infantry where he patrolled for terrorists on foot. He lost his legs when a mine exploded under the seat of the Humvee he was in.

He spoke of dying several times from the loss of blood and brain injury before making it back to the United States and Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.

“It was a day that I will never forget. God was with me. He let me live,” Wallace said.

He focused his talk on receiving prosthetic legs and learning how to walk again, experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and attempts to commit suicide.

“My legs are bionic. I’m expensive,” he said.   Wallace told the students that he overcame his negative thoughts by recommitting his life to Christ and receiving assistance from numerous nonprofit organizations.  A baby girl was recently born into the family.

For his service, he is both a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient.  

He encouraged the students to not allow his injuries to frighten them from military service.  “I’m a better man from the experience,” he said.

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