The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

July 2003

For the Love of Country:
Louisiana Teachers Recognized by VVA


The Louisiana State Council, reviving an effort to increase VVA community involvement, has recognized two Louisiana teachers - a high school teacher and an elementary school teacher - for outstanding efforts to promote and teach patriotism and love of country.

VVA member Leslie DeLong, who headed the Teacher's Award Committee, said the award had been discussed at state council meetings several years ago, but that no action had been taken. DeLong, noting she had a personal interest in the project going forward, brought the matter up at a state council meeting in June 2002 and agreed to organize the program.

"I'm not really sure why I decided to do something,'' she said. "For years, I watched quietly as people forgot where we came from as a country. I know I taught my son to have respect for the flag and veterans and the country itself. Not that it meant he had to agree with everyone and everything. But to respect it all.''

DeLong, who is married to Louisiana State Council President Richard DeLong, is an Air Force veteran and Vietnam era veteran. She said the project involved considerable time and work - on some occasions more than she anticipated.

"The state council had been trying to involve itself in the community, and the idea bounced around for four or five years. But nobody wanted to carry it through because it involved so much work,'' she said.

The teachers will be recognized in a June ceremony. Each will receive $500 and a commemorative plaque.

The winning high school teacher, Monica Kirkendall, teaches American history in Lake Charles. She had students develop Power Point presentations of American wars and veterans beginning with World War I and ending with the Persian Gulf. The students gathered examples of period music, photos, and other illustrations of the respective historical periods and melded the items into the computer presentations. At the end of the project, they conducted a memorial for their school alumni who served in those wars, as well as a Veterans Day project.

The elementary school winner, Betty Frye, is a veteran speech therapist who will be retiring this year. She began documenting her efforts to teach patriotic subjects in 1985. She has been working with the E.S. Richardson Elementary School Honor Guard in Minden since 1983. The honor guard, a group of four students she oversees during the year, raises and lowers the flag each day and insures that flags are displayed correctly at special programs. She has conducted Veterans Day programs every year since 1984. They often involve elaborate musical and drama presentations by her students.

DeLong said she was encouraged by the success of the Louisiana State Council's first effort. Seventy-five public and parochial schools were invited to participate and most did. There were some problems along the way, but she is confident the program will see smooth sailing in the years to come.

"A lot of things that we didn't get done this year will get done next year,'' she said. "But if all the information had been disseminated, it's possible we would have been overwhelmed with applications. I don't think we would have been able to deal with it, but we'll be better prepared next year.''


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