Students will:

  • identify those who have sacrificed on their behalf
  • understand the importance of recognizing those who have paved the way for them to learn, grow, and succeed
Middle and High SchoolSocial Studies, Language Arts, Leadership, Guidance and Career Counseling

One Class Session

Medal of Honor Focus: Roger C. Donlon, U.S. Army, Vietnam War 

Introductory Activity:
Step 1: Hand out the worksheet for the lesson. Write the phrase “We Stand on the Shoulders of Giants” on the board. Have students discuss what they think the phrase means. Once the class has a definition of that phrase, have them write it at the top of the activity sheet. Classes should generally arrive at the idea that we often benefit from the lessons, sacrifices, work, ideas, and foundations laid by those who have gone before us. Emphasize that those who sacrifice for us often do so to give us opportunities in the future.

Step 2: Write the 3 sentence starters on the board. 

-I know how to                 because of                       (person).

-I have                          because of                         (person).

-I will be able to                   because                   (person)                   (action).

Step 3: Ask students to write down one sentence for each sentence starter on the activity sheet provided in Part 2. Once they have those sentences written down, invite them to come forward and write at least one of theirs on the board for students to read. You may want to tell them that one can be about a family member, one about someone they know, and another about someone they have never met but know of.

Whole Group Activity:
Have students watch the video on Roger Donlon. As they are watching, ask students to focus on what sacrifices were made by others and what sacrifices Donlon was willing to make for others.

Small Group Activity:
At the conclusion of the video, ask students to form groups of two to four and complete the remaining questions on the worksheet. They should be prepared to share their answers with the class. Ask several students to share.

Individual Activity:
Have students use the back of the activity sheet or a separate piece of paper and write a letter to their current selves from their future selves. They will imagine they are who, where, or what they want to be 20 years in the future and write a thank-you to all of the “Giants” who helped them get where they will be in the future. Ask students to be detailed and think of all those they think might have an impact on them as they pursue their goals in family, career, education, athletics, hobbies, religion, civic life, and more.

Concluding Activity:
Have students share their letters with the class. You may choose to post the letters around the room, share in small groups, or have volunteers read aloud to the class.

Worksheet, letter

Roger Donlon Living History video, worksheet

Extended Activity:
Have students research Roger Donlon in greater detail. Research some of the activities and organizations he has been involved with in order to “stand on the shoulder of giants.” Donlon has written two books and been involved with organizations such as Wreaths Across America.