It’s not every day that a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter lands at a school – let alone on a school day. But that’s exactly what happened at John Hersey High School in honor of Veterans Day 2023.
The UH-60 Black Hawk landing was just one part of an action-packed three days across Chicagoland, Nov. 9-11, 2023, for U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Gen. Matthew V. Baker, commanding general of the 88th Readiness Division. The 88th RD is headquartered out of Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, and Fort Snelling, Minnesota, but spans several states across the Midwest to provide military services and base operations support.
Baker scheduled the Veterans Day weekend to connect with students – the future leaders of America – and veterans – Americans that have served (and often continue to serve their communities) through their leadership.
Baker first visited Elk Grove High School and John Hersey High School, Nov. 9-10, for their all-day events honoring local veterans. The events included breakfast meet-and-greets, high school band performances, and speeches from distinguished leaders and veterans.
At both schools, Baker shared his story and asked the students what legacy they wanted to leave through their own service.
“I see a lot of future leaders in this room and hopefully future veterans,” Baker said. “What’s your story going to be?”
The Illinois Army National Guard and active duty Army also participated at the John Hersey High School event, flying down the National Guard helicopter display and rolling up an Army Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics truck from Fort Knox, Kentucky. The STEM truck featured games and technology for students to get an idea for future job opportunities in the Army.
Baker’s weekend capped off with a visit to the Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago for their Veterans Day program on Nov. 11.
The museum’s program included a patriotic performance by the U.S. Army Reserve’s 484th Army Band — one of the services provided by the 88th Readiness Division. Baker introduced the band and even conducted a song after a bit of arm-twisting from the band’s commander and conductor Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ken Fabis.
During his introduction of the band and final event of the weekend, Baker stressed the importance for veterans to continue sharing their stories of service and closing the loop for the younger generations.
“The patriotism is not lost in this generation, and we have to keep that going,” Baker said in conclusion.
On Veterans Day and every day, veteran stories connect the public with the value of Army service and inspire the next generation to serve.