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Gilbert teacher shows students importance of Veterans Day

Posted at 5:46 AM, Nov 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-12 13:31:30-05

Before her wake-up call was the school bell ringing, Juliana Jackson awoke to reveille. It is the military alarm clock she woke up to for four years when she served in the U.S. Air Force back in the 1980s. 

"It changes you," Jackson said. "It changes your family." 

Now she is known as Mrs. Jackson to students at Playa Del Rey Elementary School in Gilbertand she wants to make sure her students do not just think that they were getting a free day off on Veterans Day. 

So, six years ago she started turning the hallways into military memorials to honor her grandfather, father, brother, cousin and the other veterans in the community. 

There are six panels now that are full of pictures, writings, and memorabilia that give students something to see, something to touch, and something to understand about what it means to give the ultimate sacrifice.

That is something that Jackson knows far too well. 

"Jared was killed in action back in 2006," Jackson said.

Jared Monti, Jackson's cousin, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor after his passing by President Barack Obama for his bravery in trying to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. He was shot and killed by a sniper. 

But, his memory does not just live in photos. His memory now lives on in music.

Jackson explained how her uncle was once on a radio broadcast. The announcer asked about Monti and asked how her uncle remembered him.

"He says, 'I drive his truck,'" Jackson said, choking back tears.

The song, "I Drive Your Truck," by country singer Lee Brice is based on Jackson's family. She says it is still so surreal to listen to the hit track.

Jackson shares that history and the history of the community with all of the students at the elementary school each year now. 

"Every child, if you look up on these pennants and stars, from kindergarten through sixth grade, special needs, every one of them - have filled out a message dedicated to our military veteran and service members," Jackson pointed out. 

And outside, she organizes an assembly that is complete with speakers, musical performances, an appearance by the Arizona Patriot Guard Riders and more.

"These men and women are to be respected and held to the highest esteem," Jackson said. "We should take care of them, not just while they're in the military. But, we need to take care of them when they return." 

"Beyond today, we really live the message that it is more than just one event," explained Principal Darrin Praska. "It is more than just one ceremony. But, it is really how we live."