By Jon Krenek
The (Kankakee) Daily Journal, Kankakee, Ill.
KANKAKEE, Ill. (AP) — Can you spot Josh Carlile’s students? The Manteno Middle School science teacher’s class might be hiding in the shrubs outside in camouflage to demonstrate how animals hide themselves from predators.
The ecology lesson is just one way Carlile, 29, of Bourbonnais, can engage his students, compliments of his military service in Kuwait and Afghanistan. The 14-year veteran remains actively enlisted as a sergeant first class with a National Guard unit in Springfield.
His dual role as a soldier and educator has earned him honors last month from the Bourbonnais Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9961 Ladies Auxiliary with a Citizenship Education Teacher Award for Promotion of Americanism to Students.
“I couldn’t think of a better person to receive such an award or an award that better represents a teacher and what they have done for their students and their country,” said Nathan Short, the school’s assistant principal, who nominated Carlile for the honor.
Carlile has been on combat missions in Afghanistan in 2011 and in Kuwait in 2008, each time taking a leave of absence from his teaching duties. When he comes back, the experiences boost the classroom experience.
“I get a lot of kids who really buy into it,” Carlile said. “It’s eye opening and gives me a bridge to educate them on things that are not science.”
Carlile technically is an instructor for an officer candidate program in Springfield, but his duties when deployed have involved service with infantry units. In Kuwait, he guarded Patriot missile sites against potential insurrections and terrorism. In Afghanistan, where he was wounded, he conducted combat operations while embedded with Polish military units.
“We had direct contact with the enemy,” Carlile said. “When you’re shot at, you realize the world is a lot different than you thought it was.”
The missions he went on in Afghanistan involved searching for enemy weapons caches, negotiating with village elders, seeking out hostile units and locating improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs. It was an IED which wounded Carlile, herniating one of the disks in his back in a shock wave when it detonated.
He earned a Combat Infantryman Badge for engaging the enemy.
“Every day, I try to incorporate my experiences in the military,” Carlile said. “Some of the kids are really shocked by what goes on out there.”
While his service places Carlile in danger and causes prolonged separation from his family and career, he does have plenty of support. He serves with the blessing of his family, including his wife, Krista, and their three young children. The school district also goes “way beyond” what it is required to do preserving his job and employment status, he said.
The middle school even held a surprise assembly for Carlile where he received his award. Along with it came a VFW Memory Coin, a token of the organization’s support.
“It’s to remind them that they’re never forgotten,” said Sandy Britt, one of the VFW’s ladies auxiliary members. “We want our military people to remember we’re thinking about them no matter what.”
Source: The (Kankakee) Daily Journal, http://bit.ly/1IETC7H
Information from: The Daily Journal, http://www.daily-journal.com