Staff Sergeant Joe Evans met with second graders at Sierra View Elementary School recently, in honor of Veterans Day, and told them about his experiences in the service and the sacrifices made by him and his family, as well as others who serve in the military.
“It’s so important for our veterans to know we appreciate them,” said Sierra View teacher Linda Kraus.
Evans brought a display of his medals, as well as some of the items he collected in the countries he visited over his military career, especially those from when he served in the Middle East for the children to see.
“Having the children hear from ‘real-life veterans’ is so much more meaningful for them than anything I can ever tell them in a lesson,” Kraus said. “They are able to see the uniforms worn and awards earned, view photos, and listen to stories told that clearly send the message that war is not cool and our freedom isn’t free.
“Thanks to my father, retired Naval Chief Petty Officer, Ronald Crews, I learned those lessons many years ago,” she added, “and continue to make sure my students are aware and appreciative of the gift they have been given, that of living in a free country.”
Evans retired after 24 years in the Naval Reserves but felt his service wasn’t complete, so he joined the Army National Guard, prior to 9-11.
He was called to war, or active duty, after a couple years with the guard and served in Kuwait with his unit from December 2004 to December 2005. While there, he also went to Iraq.
Evans also explained to the students that while he traveled to many places, he had to leave his family behind, sometimes when he was needed at home but they all had to make due in order for him to serve the country.
“When duty called, I had to go. It’s called a sacrifice,” Evans said. “It’s hard on us and our families but it’s for a good cause. Just remember that.”
He retired from the National Guard in the spring of 2006.
Kraus has a long history of teaching her students about the role of veterans and having veterans visit her classes. It’s something she’s done since she began teaching in 1989.
“My students, for 21 years, have learned about the importance of honoring those who have served our country,” Kraus said. “We have discussed some of the sacrifices that have been made by those in the military, as well as their families, on behalf of the citizens of the United States. We have read books, viewed educational videos, and listened to guest speakers throughout the years.”
Kraus said that she’s had her students write to veterans in the Fresno VA Hospital for many years, in order to thank them for keeping our country safe and choosing to serve so selflessly.
“One year, my class regularly wrote letters to a soldier who was serving in the war,” she recalled. “This soldier was a former second and third grade student from Fair Oaks. Upon his return, my class reassembled one evening and gave the soldier, Lowell Barber, a Welcome Home Party.”
Evans drove this point home when he told the students that it was nice to receive letters from people who’d taken the time to write while he was away.