TKMS Students Gain Perspectives on Military Service

 Money raised from the footprint sales will be donated to the Middleville Veterans Memorial project as it was a year ago.

  Additionally, each class in the middle school was challenged to bring in change for a "Loose Change can Change a Life" fundraising event. Monies raised will be donated to the Barry County United Way to help local veterans with various emergency costs.

  But the day was more than just about raising money. Students also heard from five speakers who gave different perspectives of military service.

  They heard from Shaun Davis, now one of their middle school teachers, who served in the Air Force before becoming a teacher. They also heard from one of their English teachers, Laura Nikkel, talk about her father and his service in Vietnam.

  Monte and Laura Munjoy talked from the perception of parents who have a son in the military. And TK 2006 graduate Staff Sgt. Erica Reenders talked about her experiences in the service and joining right after high school.

  “Today is the day we honor people who keep our freedoms so we can live the way we want to. I hope you take time and thank a veteran today,” said middle school principal Brian Balding, introducing the guest speakers to the students. "They've sacrificed a lot for our country."

  Davis, who served in the Air Force before becoming a teacher, said the best part of his service was being able to serve his country and take care of people back home.

  "The downside is being alone and away from your family, but you have a new family," he said.

He advised any of the students interested in joining to talk to someone who has been in the military recently and get to understand what it's going to be like.

  "The lifestyle is definitely different," he said.

  He told students loyalty, courage, grit, determination and the ability to be a good follower and leader were important attributes for  a good soldier.

  Staff Sgt. Erica Reenders, who also served in the U.S. Air Force, said she was able to travel all over the world during her service when she worked as a load master for cargo planes.

She told students she is still in the Air National Guard but has been able to get her college degree.

  "I was 18 years old when I joined, just a few weeks after graduation," she said. "The hardest part was being away from friends and family."

  But she said she wouldn't have changed any of her time in the military. "The best part was definitely being able to do something bigger than myself," she said.

  Monte and Laura Munjoy talked about their perspective of the military as parents of a son serving in the Navy.  They said he had been all over the world and served in some covert operations where they couldn't talk to him for months.

  "The best part is we're so proud of him," said Laura. "The worst part was not knowing where he was or being able to talk to him sometimes for months."

  Monte said the Navy made his son grow up a lot and take a lot of responsibility after having quit college after one year.

  English teacher Laura Nikkel gave yet another perspective of a child whose father served in Viet Nam. She said that time was a very different time for service men and women who never spoke about their service and didn't have community support when they returned home.

She said her father didn't really talk about his service much for a long time, but eventually, she was able to get him to tell her his stories and share his experiences. During his service, he received several commendations including the Bronze Start, five Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation.