When Springfield High School student Joshua Fox was selected to pay tribute to a soldier who died in the historic World War II D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, he didn’t have to search far to find a local hero.
The Ohio senior worked with the Normandy: Sacrifice For Freedom project through the Albert H. Small Student & Teacher Institute to honor Lucas County resident Private Jack William Runkel, a paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 101 Airborne unit who died in action during the 1944 invasion, WTVG reports.
“Something about Private Runkel just spoke to me, that he was young kind of reminded me of how they were young men, most of them, who gave their life during this campaign,” Fox said.
The teen researched Runkel’s history and family, then traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend lectures and activities by World War II historians. Fox and his history teacher, Andrew Screptock, were among 15 teacher-student teams to participate in the Sacrifice for Freedom project, which culminated with students reading eulogies about the soldiers at their gravesites in France’s Normandy American Cemetery.
“That five minutes,” Fox said of the eulogy, “I can’t even explain it.”
“To know that I was possibly the first to memorialize him and honor him in that way was powerful to say the least,” he said. “We could all be speaking German right now if it wasn’t for these heroes. And it’s just something we all need to remember because of how important it was and what they gave up for us.”
“You know, it’s authentic,” Screptock added. “We got to get our hands dirty with history. So seeing Josh participate in that was especially gratifying.”
Researchers with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture recently analyzed character education in a wide variety of schools and published the findings in “The Content of Their Character.”
The research shows many schools, particularly rural schools, center character formation on three spheres of moral obligation: an appreciation of immigration, religious responsibility, and military service.
In rural schools, for example, students are not pressured to join the military, but rather “there was simply a clear expectation that people respect and honor those serving, those who had served, and those students thinking about joining.”
Fox’s memorial to Runkel is another prime example of how the expectation translates into something students and teachers can be proud of. The Sacrifice for Freedom project also creates role models, both in military heroes who gave their lives for freedom and students like Fox who step up to ensure their sacrifices are not forgotten.
The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues offers lessons on developing role models that explains “the positive effect that role models can have in your professional lives.”
“Inspiration can come from anywhere, but some people in our lives make a lasting contribution towards creating a better world for us and others,” according to the unit Character in the Professions: Law “These people may have inspired others through their various achievements but also their attitude and virtues.”