Doug Groft admitted as he walked down the halls of Scott Key High School that he probably couldn't find his way around now, with all of the additions over the years.
He could, however, remember clearly the four years he served in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam, and it was those memories he shared with a science class on Wednesday, Nov. 9.
While he didn't travel to Vietnam — by "luck of the draw," he said — he did travel to the Arctic Ocean, the Mediterranean and the Middle East on an aircraft carrier. His job focused on ejection seats on fighter jets and he spoke about oxygen, parachutes, life rafts, emergency dye — and about how his experiences shaped his youth.
"I knew I didn't want to go to college," the 1967 Francis Scott Key graduate recalled of his days as a teen in Carroll County. "The Navy always appealed to me. I got to see the world."
More than 60 local veterans gathered at the school Nov. 9 for recognition by the staff and students of their service and dedication to their country.
Organized by John Elsen and Ryan Kimble, social studies teachers at the school, the pre-Veterans Day event featured a breakfast prepared by members of the school's Future Farmers of America chapter, performances of patriotic songs by the school's chorus and band, and "fireside chats" — in which veterans spoke with classes about their experiences and answered questions.
"We purposely chose to have it today," said Ken Fischer, the school's assistant principal, noting that the event was held two days before Veterans Day.
"A lot of our vets have activities to go to on Veterans Day, and we didn't want to compete with any of the outstanding things our community does," he said.
In the past, Elsen has organized the playing of "Taps" and the reading of "Flanders Field" on Veterans Day. He has always placed flags outside the school, too, with each flag representing a Maryland resident who has died during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There were 104 flags outside Nov. 9.
"I asked 'What more can we do?' " Elsen said. "I'm very pleased with it. The entire school got to see something."
Posters lined the hallway to the school's cafeteria. Made by students in their advisory class, the posters thanked veterans and welcomed them to the school.
"We just needed something for when they walked in to show how much we appreciate their service," Kimble said. "If the veterans came in and felt that we honored them, that is all that matters to us."
Jim Harris, who was stationed at Guam with the Air Force during the Vietnam War, is also an alumni of FSK, class of 1964.
He said the day provided a chance for a veterans to share their experiences, and for him personally to enjoy a pleasant homecoming.
"It was a wonderful program, and I appreciated it," Harris said. "It was a wonderful recognition given to veterans."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun