CB South Teacher Kindles Appreciation of Military Service in Students

Central Bucks High School South (CB South) math teacher Frank Woodring is quick to recall the time he was within an arm’sfrank woodring reach of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the White House. He stood guard for President Ronald Reagan, and he can recount the time that President George Bush, a former Navy pilot, sauntered past the soldiers and Marines in the Presidential Honor Guard to visit with the sailors in the unit, Woodring among them.

But mostly what he remembers from this formative period of his life are the 750 or so funerals he participated in as a member of the Presidential Honor Guard. One service, in particular, stood out – the one that honored the 37 crew members of the USS Stark who were killed in a missile attack in 1987.

 “We were trained to hold the M1 rifle for 15 minutes,” he remembers. “On that day, we stood at present arms for more than 50 minutes. The thing that kept going through my mind was that it could have been me – and we had to take care of those guys.”

It’s that sense of loyalty, duty and commitment that undergirds Woodring’s never-ending efforts to honor former and current military personnel at CB South. There’s the Operation Eternal Gratitude Club for students that ships thousands of pounds of care packages to service personnel each year. There’s the school’s Wall of Honor, which honors CB South graduates who have served or are serving in the armed forces.

And each Veterans Day, Woodring helps organize a celebration of those who serve the country in the military. The event this year included testimonials prepared by the students about veterans in attendance, the singing of the hymns of each military branch and the reading of a speech on the importance of the national holiday. Of special note this year was Archie Fagan, who served in combat during World War II under General George S. Patton and helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp. Later he served as an observer at the Nuremberg Trials of former Nazi leaders.

frank with world leaders in the honor guardCB South wasn’t alone. Central Bucks School District puts a special emphasis on celebrating veterans, and across the district, schools honored them with breakfasts, assemblies, and other activities.

For Woodring, these events each year are personal. He comes from a family of Air Force veterans and acknowledges that his childhood and high school years were a tough time. So, when a Navy recruiter called him one day, he said, “Let’s go.”

“The Navy changed me,” he says. "It made me grow up. When you go in the military, they tear down all bad things that make up who you are and build you up. I use that in my everyday work now. I needed that. I probably would have gone down a different road without it.”

He says he got lucky when recruiters from the prestigious Presidential Honor Guard visited his unit in Boot Camp, and he was one of the select few to make it through training. That prepared him to handle the rigors of presidential events, military funerals, and other responsibilities.

Some memories stand out – like the time that guard members were waiting to get on the bus after a funeral and Woodring felt a hand on his shoulder. It was the widow, and she wanted to thank him and the team.

“She gave me a hug,” he says. “Everybody in our party was silent. We didn’t talk for an hour. Our whole goal was always to be perfect. They deserved perfection.”

After leaving the Honor Guard, he went to aviation electronics school where he graduated first in his class. From there he became a calibration technician on the USS Belleau Wood before leaving the Navy after six years.

Ultimately, he found his way to eastern Pennsylvania and a new career as a math teacher. He also met his wife, Hannah, whofrank marching with the honor guard is a business teacher at Central Bucks High School East.

“As a teacher, my whole goal is to affect kids in a positive manner,” he says, adding that having military experience is very helpful as a teacher. “When you talk to kids and say that you were in the military, their eyes get a little bigger. They listen to you then, and it makes it easier in the classroom.”

And he’s mindful of remembering where he came from and all those who continue to serve.

“These are people who run to danger,” he says. “They should be lifted up at all times.”