Military principles like purpose, direction, motivation and communication can help all people navigate their way through life.
That was the message Shannon Brown, who is retired from the U.S. Army, gave to students at Smokey Road Middle School’s annual Veterans Day Assembly on Friday. Speaking in the gymnasium, Brown encouraged students to have passion and focus on their lives.
Brown, who was introduced by his son, student Graham Brown, punctuated his talk with stories from his time stationed in Italy. He recalled being sent to Vicenza, an old Italian city with a rich history.
“The installation commander told us, ‘Make sure you go out. Immerse yourself in the culture,’” he related. The Brown family went into the city, saw the sites and then went to lunch at a restaurant.
“Of course, we didn’t speak Italian. It appeared no one in the restaurant spoke English,” he remembered.
The Americans recognized pizza on the menu and began ordering. Brown’s sons shared a four-cheese pizza, and his wife chose spinach and cheese. He selected pepperoni, which elicited some comments in Italian from the waitress.
He assured her he knew what he wanted. When his pizza came, it had chopped peppers on it, rather than the sausage he was anticipating.
He told the story to illustrate the important of clear communication. He noted that the Character Word of the Week last week at Smokey Road was “cooperation.”
“What is cooperation? I’d have to say it’s a group of people who are working together for a common goal,” Brown said. “In cooperation, there’s one thing you’ve got to have and that’s communication.”
He talked about the ties that bind all military people.
“No matter what branch you’re in, you’re all members of the veteran fraternity. You’ve been through some of the same trials and tribulations,” he said.
He urged students to have the Army ideals of purpose, direction and motivation.
“What is your objective?” he asked. “Which direction are you going in?”
Many Army drills involve using a map and compass to get somewhere. “You have to orient your map with the compass so you can know where you’re going in. Know which direction you’re going in,” he advised.
“What is your motivation and what is your passion?” Smith asked. “Always follow that.”
He remembered learning to swim while in Italy, particularly his first swim down the middle lane of the pool. He was not sure how much progress he was making, opened his eyes and saw he was about 15 feet from the walls of the pool.
He began to sink.
“The moral of the story is to stay focused. I was swimming, I was doing the right thing. Once I got unfocused, I started to drown,” he said.
“Make sure you’re being a leader and not a follower. You want to lead from the front. If you’re the type of person who is following someone, make sure the people you’re following have a good moral compass,” he said.
Dr. Keafer Triplett, SRMS principal, said the Veterans Day program is not only a time to honor the men and women of the armed forces but a way to “bring our curriculum to life.”
Chandra Crocker, staff member, took the lead in organizing the program. She called each veteran by name and had them stand.
“This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. It ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, which is the reason we celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11,” Crocker said.
The Smokey Road Chorus, under the direction of Oscar Prado, played the service hymns for each branch of the service with members of that branch standing while their hymn was played.
There also was music by the Smokey Road Chorus, under the direction of Mary Ritchea. Carson Coker, a band member, played “Taps” on his trumpet at the close of the program.