by Jonathan Weaver
Col. Bob Munhall may have served his country in the U.S. Army, but he didn’t come to West Hills Primary to brag. He came to inspire students that they can be heroes, too.
“Sharing the idea that veterans have always done this for our neighbors and for our families to live in peace – that’s sort-of my bottom line,” Munhall said. “The best way to honor a veteran is to practice good citizenship – the veteran did it because of his commitment to the country, not because he was looking to be somebody’s hero.”
Munhall told third graders Monday that he was most of all a community citizen.
“I did spend about 10 years on active duty and yes, I was in Vietnam and in Desert Storm and the Pentagon, but most of all, I’m a citizen – I was a member of a community, of a neighborhood,” Munhall said.
A 31-year veteran who also was a Hampton Middle School math teacher, Munhall has talked with students for 12 years as part of the Joe Foss Institute about Memorial Day and Veterans Day and urged them to try and make a difference in their hometown.
“Whether you’re in the library, out playing, in school studying or just in your neighborhood, you need to be somebody’s hero – do something nice for somebody,” Munhall said. “I call it ‘active citizenship’ – we can make a difference. It’s up to you and me to do the best we can.”
Third-grade Teacher Laura Bisping had been arranging the program since September. She described why.
“We were looking something different this year to do to celebrate Veterans Day – in the past, we’ve had the kids sing and do a program, but we really wanted to be more educational for the kids and learn more this year, so I was looking online for ideas,” Bisping said. “I just sort-of came upon them, I guess.”
Bisping said Munhall’s message is a common lesson within the school and had her students write a journal entry after the presentation to see what they learned.
“At West Hills, we really try to focus on being a good citizen and being a good person. We have a character program where we focus on different character traits each month, and that was really Mr. Munhall’s main point in his program – to teach the kids that just because you’re not a soldier doesn’t mean you can’t be a patriot here,” Bisping said.
Bisping will meet with Principal Paula Berry and other teachers to see if they want to partner with the institute in future school years.
“I’m very happy and pleased with how it turned out – we were a little nervous since it was the first year that we partnered with them,” Bisping said.
At the end of Munhall’s presentation, he answered questions from students regarding life as a soldier, but kept his citizenship message.
“I did what Uncle Sam asked me to do – nothing more, nothing less,” Munhall said.