National Guard Sergeant First Class Stephen Smith visited Mrs. Jody McMahon’s literature classes today to give a real life version of what a soldier carries both physically and emotionally complimenting their study of “The Things They Carried” a collection of short stories by American novelist Tim O'Brien about a platoon of American soldiers fighting on the ground in the Vietnam War. Sergeant Smith shared personal account of his time on the ground in Iraq from 2006-2007. Tomorrow, Master Gunnery Sergeant USMC (Ret) Andrew Worley, will recount his experience in the Vietnam War. One difference that may strike students is how much the gear changed from one war to the next.
Students were able to try on some of the physical items Sgt. Smith brought including a protective vest and Kevlar combat helmet. They learned that, with gear and ammunition, soldiers carry up to 100 pounds of extra weight into their missions.
Beyond the physical things a soldier carries during war, Sgt. Smith gave a personal account of the guilt and fear he sometimes felt, especially after suffering loss. He also talked about how he came through those burdens and learned to cope. He described the routine of each day as "eat. sleep. workout. mission" and contrasted that to life here, which tends to lack structure. He described how much colors impacted him upon his return from deployment. "As soon as I stepped of the plane, the colors rushed my senses," he said explaining that he hadn't realized how little color he lived with in Iraq. Students were able to ask questions and invited to reach out to SFC Smith with any concern or need.