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Veterans of Foreign Wars Surprise History Teacher

May 05, 2016 04:43PM ● Published by Bryan Scott

By Tori La Rue | tori@mycityjournals.com

West Valley - While Lorna Murray was teaching a history class at Copper Hills High School, five Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) surprised her with a congratulatory visit. 

“What is going on? I know you,” Murray said as Michael Stiebing, John Delliskave, Stanley Martinez, David Earle and Nick Flake walked into the room. 

Her classroom instruction paused. The veterans and Murray exchanged hugs before Martinez presented Murray with VFW’s Teacher of the Year award for the state of Utah. She won the award for teaching students that freedom is not free but made possible by the sacrifices made by veterans. Murray’s guests then presented her with an honorary coin. 

“I happen to know what this means — what this coin means,” Murray said to her class. “You become an honorary member of that group by being coined, and I do appreciate this very, very much. This is a very great honor.” 

The class erupted in applause. 

“Kids,” Murray said, interrupting their clapping. “Yeah okay, you applaud me, but I want you to take a look at these guys right here. I do not deserve your applause, they do. They do. They are the ones that have preserved your freedom.”

Murray walked over to 92-year-old Delliskave, and explained to the class that he was a World War II veteran who fought in Iwo Jima. She highlighted several of the other veterans’ stories, sharing that one of them had been forced to join Hitler’s youth at age 11, before immigrating to the U.S. where he was drafted into the Korean War. Others were involved in the Vietnam War and Desert Storm. 

“This is the face of courage,” Murray said to her students. 

Murray knew most of her surprise visitors because as part of the University of Utah Veterans Day Committee she has the opportunity to interview Utah veterans. Murray said her conviction to sharing veterans’ stories came from her father’s experiences as a combat veteran and former POW during World War II.

“That’s where it started, was coming to an understanding of what [my father] had done and by relation, by extrapolation, realizing what all veterans go through,” Murray said. “Sometimes we don’t tap into what they gave us — what they gave us genetically, but what they also gave us politically. We don’t always understand that, and it is my job to teach these students so they don’t leave my class without knowing that.” 

The chances of students seeing World War II Veterans in person are quickly fizzling out as they get older, assistant principal Dennis Edmonds said. He encouraged the students in the class to get the most they could out of the unexpected visit. 

Although World War II veterans won’t be around for too much longer, Stiebing urged students to be aware of those in the military who are fighting for freedom even now. 

“In my eyes, ISIS is just like the Germans in World War II killing the Jews. They don’t care who they kill,” Stiebing said to Murray’s class. “We still have to get it through to you to make you understand that you get to do what you do every day because of all of us. Mrs. Murray does a marvelous job at teaching that.” 

Murray will have to opportunity to go to Washington, D.C. to compete at the national level for Teacher of the Year. If she wins, she’ll win a trip to the VFW conference in North Carolina in July. 

Murray said she was surprised and couldn’t believe she’d been selected for the award. 

“I’m very humbled and very honored by this,” Murray said. “Some things you’re just going to treasure your whole life. You just are.” 

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