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Decision Making

Suggested Level

Suggested Applications

Middle and High School

Students will:
• Determine how a decision made at a critical juncture in life impacts the lives of others.

Medal of Honor Focus: James P. Fleming, First Lieutenant, U.S. Air Force, 20th Special Operations Squadron / Vietnam War

Introductory Activity:
Decisions are not made in a vacuum and are often motivated by a person’s sense of right and wrong. Decisions made
at critical junctures often affect the lives of those around us.

In an excerpt from James Fleming’s profile, “Green Hornets” in the Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call
of Duty, James Fleming knew that he was the only hope that the encircled American patrol had. Fleming had to quickly
take stock of his situation and decide on a course of action in order to save his men. Though we all do not face life and
death situations, often the decisions we make at a crossroads in our lives significantly affect the lives of others.

Ask students to think of a time when they made a decision that affected those around them. Describe this decision and
explain what would have happened had they chosen to act differently. Perhaps students chose to distance themselves
from a group of friends because they were making bad choices and causing unrest in their family; perhaps they chose
to befriend a student in school who was not accepted by others; perhaps they gave of their time to do community service
when they really wanted to stay home and rest; perhaps they chose not to gossip about someone because they knew that
untruths were being spread. These may seem like insignificant examples, yet all of their actions have impact and help to
define them as a person.

Small Group Activity:
Divide the class into two groups and have each read a poem by Robert Frost:

“Not to Keep” by Robert Frost
They sent him back to her. The letter came
Saying . . . and she could have him. And before
She could be sure there was no hidden ill
Under the formal writing, he was in her sight -
Living. - They gave him back to her alive -
How else? They are not known to send the dead -
And not disfigured visibly. His face? -
His hands? She had to look, and ask,
"What was it, dear?" And she had given all
And still she had all - they had - they the lucky!
Wasn't she glad now? Everything seemed won,
And all the rest for them permissible ease.
She had to ask, "What was it, dear?"
"Enough, Yet not enough. A bullet through and through,
High in the breast. Nothing but what good care
And medicine and rest - and you a week,
Can cure me of to go again." The same
Grim giving to do over for them both.
She dared no more than ask him with her eyes
How was it with him for a second trial.
And with his eyes he asked her not to ask.
They had given him back to her, but not to keep.

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

After the poems are read, students (in small groups) should summarize the message of each poem, explain how
each poem related to decision-making, and explain how the decision made could impact the lives of others.

Whole Group Activity:
Groups will report their findings to the class. Discussion will be shared with the class.

Concluding Activity:
Students will be asked to write a short essay entitled “The Most Difficult Decision of My Life.”

Student participation, summaries, student essays

Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty. NY: Artisan, 2006.

Selected poems by Robert Frost

In Their Own Words - James Fleming