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An Unlikely Hero

Suggested Level

Suggested Applications

Middle and High School Social Studies, Veterans Day, JROTC

LESSON TIME:
One to Two Class Sessions


OBJECTIVES
Students will:

  • consider the values that make a hero
  • discuss and generate words that describe a Medal of Honor Recipient
  • identify characteristics and qualities of someone who may become a hero


Medal of Honor Focus: Gary Littrell, U.S. Army, Vietnam War


Teacher Preparation:
Prepare the classroom with large Post-It paper or a flip chart paper at each corner of the classroom with one of the following questions written on each poster:

  • What qualities does one need to become a hero?
  • What kinds of assignments or duties are needed to operate a military unit?
  • What words describe a Medal of Honor Recipient?
  • What other everyday jobs require the same characteristics as those of a Medal of Honor Recipient?

Note – Groups are suggested; however, this could be done as a partner or small group activity first. Then students get up and write their responses on the chart paper or through a google doc platform where each group types in their response. Additional questions may be added to make smaller groups.


Introductory Activity:
Arrange students into their groups. Suggested student grouping: Give each student a slip of paper upon entering the room. On the slips, evenly divided: Sergeant First Class, Vietnam, United States Army, Advisory Team 21. Students will locate their other teammates with the same group title.


Small Group/Individual Activity:
Students will be directed to respond to their initial question either around the room or at their desk groupings. Students will have approximately five minutes to discuss and answer the question on the poster paper. At the end of five minutes, students will be directed to rotate to a new question and continue the process of discussion and responding. The students should be directed to not repeat a response that another group has already provided. Each group will respond using a different color of marker.

Once all questions have been responded to by each group, have the students quickly discuss responses as a whole group.


Whole Group Activity:
Students will view Gary Littrell’s video and read through his Portrait of Valor and citation. Students will note what an unlikely hero he was. Discussion points:

  • Mother passed away when he was very young
  • Father was unfit to care for him
  • Raised by extended family and foster care
  • Voted most likely never to succeed at anything
  • Behavior was not conducive to his or others’ learning
  • Joined the military to have structure and guidance
  • Military was his first real family


Individual Activity:
Students will answer two of the questions from the flip charts using Gary Littrell’s story and support their reasoning with evidence from the video and his biography.


Concluding Activity:
Students will write a reflection about the challenges Gary Littrell faced as a young boy growing up without structure, his struggles in school, and how he overcame these challenges. Students will identify challenges or obstacles within their own lives and set short-term and long-term goals for their own personal success.


Assessment:

List of questions and answers, class presentation


Resources:
Large flip chart paper, markers (different color for each group), Gary Littrell’s Medal of Honor citation, Portrait of Valor, and Living History video


Extended Activities:
Students will interview family or friends who served in the military or public service. Students should prepare interview questions that ask what training the person had prior to joining the military, what led them to join the military, and what duties the person had while serving, they should conclude with a written summary to present to the class. While students are presenting, the audience should note any of the same characteristics of a Medal of Honor Recipient listed on the board previously.

Living History Video

Portrait of Valor - Gary Littrell