Friday, November 21, 2014

Veterans Tied Into Fabric of Spring Branch

Many of the veterans recognized and honored at Spring Forest have ties to the school, the community, or both. Former Army 1st Lt. Jim Duncan, who lives in Wilchester West and whose two oldest children went to Spring Forest, fought in the Korean War. He said that after talking with younger veterans, particularly those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, he’s encouraged by their dedication to service.

“For my generation, it’s reassuring,” said Duncan, dressed Tuesday in a dress uniform from the Korean War era.

Duncan said that he’s the “black sheep” of his family – his father and uncle were career military. His father was a balloon observer in World War I, then later served as a commander in World War II. His uncle, James, was a machine gunner in World War I.

“The military’s been part of my family’s life,” he said.

View photos of the Spring Forest Veterans Day Event >>

For Perry Sontag, a co-teacher at Spring Forest, military service was just as important if somewhat less recognized when he served in the Air Force, from 1984 to 1988. “I think it’s great the way they honor veterans now,” he said. “When we served, there wasn’t the same level of respect.”

Sontag served as a morse code operator/analyst in England and at the National Security Agency during his enlistment, then earned a teaching degree and a master’s in counseling after discharge. He taught at Housman Elementary for 10 years, then after a brief stint in Cy-Fair ISD he returned to Spring Branch ISD and Spring Forest Middle.

He said events such as the one at Spring Forest are special.

“I look around at others who have served and it makes me proud to be a part of it all,” he said.

Librarian Richard Fanning spent four years in the Air Force – two years in the security service in Thailand near the end of the war in Vietnam, then two years as a medical technician at Lackland AFB (so he could with be his wife, Diane, now a district iCoach). A teacher since 1999, Fanning has taught at Channelview High School, Spring Woods High School and Spring Forest.

He like the veteran’s event for a number of reasons. For the students, he said, it’s “primary source learning.” But for Fanning personally, it’s far more than that.

“Before I experienced this (at Spring Forest) I had never been honored for my service,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”


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