Irvine leaves lasting impression with Veterans Day ceremony at Lux
Brad Irvine bought a special Civil War-themed tie when he first started teaching at Lincoln Public Schools in 1994.
He made sure to wear the history-based item Nov. 10 during the final Veterans Day ceremony of his career.
Irvine helped teach Lux Middle School students about the sacrifices military veterans made for the country at the annual assembly. He has been a cornerstone of the event since moving to the school in 2008. He will be retiring this spring after working with hundreds of students in his American history classrooms over the years.
Irvine said it was important for Lux students to understand why the United States has a full list of personal and social freedoms. Students listened to several speeches at the assembly and then took part in small-group discussions with veterans in classrooms. He said the day's purpose was not to glorify war but to honor those who have served.
“I educate these kids about veterans and why we’re having this,” Irvine said. “Freedom isn’t free and someone has to pay the price. That’s the big message I want the kids to get from this.”
Eighth-grade students Finley and Cole both said after the assembly that they were inspired by what they heard. They said they were grateful for the service of the 30-plus veterans who attended the event.
“I think it’s super important to realize you shouldn’t take freedom for granted,” Finley said.
“It’s really awesome,” Cole said. “I’m glad I can hear all of these veterans’ stories.”
Irvine graduated from East High School and earned education and history degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Nebraska Wesleyan University. He began teaching at East Junior-Senior High School in 1994 and worked at Culler Middle School from 1996-2008. He has been a member of Lux’s staff ever since.
Jaci Kellison is a K-12 social studies curriculum specialist at LPS. She said Irvine has been an integral part of the Lux landscape. He has dedicated many hours to ensuring events like the Veterans Day ceremony make a positive impact on everyone.
“Brad is passionate about connecting students with the community and actively pursues opportunities to invite the community in to engage with students,” Kellison said. “Activities like the annual Veterans Day assembly and accompanying activities are ones students are sure to remember long after they leave middle school!”
Irvine relied on his relationships with the military community to create a powerful lineup of speakers for the assembly. After learning the initial keynote presenter could not attend, he secured video messages from Lincoln native and U.S. Coast Guard member Turner Linafelter, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Major General Craig Strong of the Nebraska National Guard.
Lux Principal Duane Dohmen, current Lux teacher Gabriela Marquez Waworuntu and former Lux teacher Kathi Mercure also spoke at the assembly.
Dohmen reminded students in his welcoming address that veterans had helped preserve many freedoms in America. Marquez Waworuntu told the audience students had raised more than $2,000 worth of items for members of the Nebraska National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 134th Regiment, Alpha Company airborne unit stationed in East Africa.
Mercure shared with students how she and current Lux Associate Principal Aaron Zabawa came up with the idea for a Veterans Day program 26 years ago. Mercure’s father was at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, which was something that made an impression on her growing up. She felt it was critical for students to hear similar stories from veterans about their service.
“I think it’s one of the most important lessons you can learn as an eighth grader,” Mercure said.
Irvine shared the name of each veteran in attendance after Lux musicians performed in the band and choir. He spoke after the assembly about his personal story with the military. He grew up wanting to enlist in one of the branches after learning he had relatives who served in the Civil War. He was unable to join because of a medical condition that developed when he was in middle school, which fueled his desire to teach others about American history.
“The military stuff is in my blood,” Irvine said. “I couldn’t serve, but I wanted to honor those who did.”
Irvine said there were mixed emotions after his final ceremony. He was happy to see students like Finley and Cole share how they had been impacted by the assembly, but sad that this would be his last one as a teacher. He said he will remember everyone at Lux every time Veterans Day appears on the calendar.
“It’s bittersweet,” Irvine said. “I love this day. It’s my favorite day of the year.”
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Published: November 14, 2023, Updated: November 14, 2023