NORTH CANTON Don "Doc" Ballard told students from the social studies classes at Hoover High School that when he and other enlisted men and women returned from their service in the Vietnam war, they were spit on and had things thrown at them when walking through an airport. He told the students that today, people clap and thank the service men and women when they see them out in the community or walking through the airport.
Ballard is a Medal of Honor recipient from 1970 for his time served in Vietnam. He served the country in the United States Navy, Marines and eventually retired from the Army. He gave his presentation on Nov. 14, several days after Veteran’s Day was observed around the country.
His presentation focused on why it’s important to serve and why veterans deserve to always be treated with respect.
"Veterans are often asked why they served and why we go to war to protect American freedoms," Ballard said. "None of us want to go to war. It all boils down to Americanism. We are all Americans versus Americants. We are fortunate enough to have the freedoms to fight for the things we believe to be correct. Every war after the Civil War was fought to help others. Not once has America gone to war to express our super power in the world."
He said every veteran will answer the question of why they served by saying they love their country and will put their own safety at risk to protect the people of the country. Close to half of the students raised their hands when Ballard asked how many had family members serving in the military.
He talked about receiving the highest award given to those who served, the Medal of Honor, in 1970 from then President Richard Nixon. Ballard was a hospital corpsman, second class with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines in the 3rd Marine Division.
"I was called a war hero, but I just feel like I was doing my job," Ballard said.
Ballard lives in Kansas City, Mo., and travels around the country to give his presentation. He believes talking with students in elementary and high schools is important for several reasons. First, it gives them a partisan understanding of the roles the veterans play in the county. It also helps to provide them a sense of why it’s important to honor the veterans and continue to show them respect.
Hoover High School Assistant Principal Rob White said, "We hold Veteran’s Day events to give our students a greater understanding about our veterans. We are grateful to the Patriot Project for helping us set up this presentation."