What’s life in uniform like? Veterans share experiences with students


Dana Pendergrass traveled the world from Germany to Guam as an Air Force airman.

What he saw and learned changed his world view, the veteran told about 400 Fairborn High School students on Wednesday.

Pendergrass was one of seven veterans who were part of a ‘Take a Veteran to School Day” event Wednesday. They answered the high school students’ questions on everything from how technology has advanced in the military to how military life affects families.

“The military changed everything about my world view,” said Pendergrass, 53, of Hamilton and a Desert Storm veteran who deployed to Saudi Arabia in the U.S.-lead push that defeated Iraqi troops after they invaded Kuwait.

RELATED: WWII 75 years later: 101-year-old Dayton native relives Doolittle raid

“I come from a small town in Hamilton, Ohio, a very small community and I didn’t know anything about the outside world beyond that community and the values I was taught in my immediate family,” he said after the presentation. He joined the military shortly after high school and he and his family immersed themselves in foreign cultures from England to Australia. He urged students to consider public service to local communities and the nation.

Fairborn High School was contacted by Spectrum, a television and internet provider, which puts on the veterans recognition program in conjunction with the History Channel at schools nationwide, organizers said.

“This wasn’t by chance that we have picked Fairborn,” Air Force veteran and state Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, told students. He noted the proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, veterans and military families in the community, and the school’s large Air Force Junior ROTC program, which has about 120 cadets. “This is the most patriotic (school) program in the state.”

RELATED: Dayton area Pearl Harbor survivor turns 100

Peyton Robinson, 17, a high school junior who is an Air Force Junior ROTC, said students like him look to veterans as role models as they consider careers in the military.

“There were so many really heartfelt and meaningful stories that were shared by the vets it helped (students) gain some perspective of what it is like to serve and there were laughs, there were some very serious moments and it was a very real experience for them, especially for those students (who’ve) had no interaction with the military at all,” said High School Principal Amy Gayheart.

Zakiya Black, 35, a Trotwood veteran who was an Army medic, hoped students learned more about the military than they could in the classroom.

RELATED: WWII vet pushes to recognize Gold Star families at AF museum

“What I hope the students took away from today is the life lessons that we were able to convey through our experiences that we wouldn’t have gotten in school or in life without going through the military, and the relationship building that doesn’t happen that often,” she said.

Camaraderie in the military extends beyond the uniform a service member wears, one veteran panelist said.

“It didn’t matter what branch you served,” said Alex Gudorf, 24, of West Alexandria, and who served in the Marine Corps Reserve. “It’s all a brotherhood and a sisterhood.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Greater Dayton RTA buses could be rid of cash fares by 2020
Greater Dayton RTA buses could be rid of cash fares by 2020

The Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority hopes to modernize its payment system and get rid of cash fares by 2020, officials said Wednesday. More than half of RTA riders have migrated to passes, including monthly and weekly passes, said Mark Donaghy, CEO of the agency.  The agency will work to become the first major transit authority in the...
Pastor: Community ‘in shock’ after news about Good Samaritan closing
Pastor: Community ‘in shock’ after news about Good Samaritan closing

Hours after Good Samaritan Hospital officials announced Wednesday that the facility will close later this year, reaction about the community impact has been wide ranging. "It's devastating news, I was shocked" said Daryl Ward, pastor of Omega Baptist Church in Dayton.  His church is just down the street from Good Samaritan Hospital,...
2 males sought in Kettering home invasion robbery
2 males sought in Kettering home invasion robbery

Police are continuing to look for two males who committed a home invasion robbery on Hazel Avenue.  Investigators don't know what led the invaders to pick the home they did Wednesday afternoon, Kettering Police Patrolman John Jung said.  According to the preliminary investigation, the two males forced their way inside just before 4 p.m.,...
Job outlook is promising for Good Samaritan employees, official says
Job outlook is promising for Good Samaritan employees, official says

After Wednesday’s announcement that Good Samaritan Hospital will shut its doors for good at the end of the year, many in the Miami Valley are wondering what will happen to the facility’s 1,600 employees. The hospital’s parent company, Premier Health, said its goal is to offer jobs to all those employees at its other facilities in...
Ann Curry speaks out about Matt Lauer sexual harassment allegations in new interview
Ann Curry speaks out about Matt Lauer sexual harassment allegations in new interview

Ann Curry has remained tight-lipped since the news broke of Matt Lauer’s alleged sexual misconduct, but she spoke about the scandal on “CBS This Morning.” The 61-year-old journalist and producer appeared on the program Wednesday to discuss her new PBS docuseries “We’ll Meet Again” and she was asked to speak...
More Stories