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Sup with the Sup
Episode 14: Veterans Day with Michael Bradley
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Welcome to this week’s episode of Provo City School District’s What’s Up With the Sup podcast. I am Superintendent Wendy Dau, and I am very excited for the podcast this week. I am going to be joined by Michael Bradley, a World Language and Social Studies teacher at Provo High. Mr. Bradley is also a veteran of the United States Army, and we will be talking about his service in honor of Veterans Day.

And now for our updates.

  • Prepare to spread holiday cheer with Timpview High School’s Sub for Santa program starting after Thanksgiving break November 27th, 2023 and continuing through winter break until January 3rd, 2024. Timpview is teaming up with the United Way and the Food and Care Coalition to support families in our district.Whether you want to donate new gifts, contribute cash, or find more ways to join in, please visit timpviewsubforsanta.weebly.com and make this season extra special for those in need.
  • A reminder that the contest for students to design a Find Your Swing pin is officially here. Students can submit their best artwork representing the Find Your Swing theme for a chance to have their design become the pin. Artwork can be turned into their school’s main office by Wednesday, December 13, 2023. And the superintendent will also be providing a $100 gift card to the winner.
  • The next school board meeting will be a study session and business meeting on Tuesday, November 14th. Study sessions are held in boardroom one at the district office and business meetings take place in the professional development center, also at the district office. Both meetings are open to the public and public comment is welcome at the business meeting. Please check our website for the start times for both meetings.
  • Look for the weekly videocast from me every Friday. In this short video, I provide important information and updates about work happening throughout the district.

Our guest today is Michael Bradley, a World Language and Social Studies teacher at Provo High School. He is also a veteran of the United States Army. We’re excited to have him on our program today in honor of Veterans Day.

Wendy: Welcome, Michael! Alright, Michael, tell us a little bit about your background and in what branch of the military did you or do you serve?I don’t want to make an assumption that you’re no longer serving. How many years, um, just anything you want to share about that.

Michael: Well, I served in the Army. I was actually born and raised in Germany. So my mother married an American soldier that was stationed in Germany and he adopted me. We traveled back and forth, and then when I was out on my own, married to my own wife, we were ready to have our own child, our first son. And times were rough, so we talked and we decided to join the military because they would give us medical and housing and provide necessary things for us. And speaking German, I wanted to do something with languages. So I went to the Air Force and I said, Hey, I’m a native born German speaker. Can you guarantee me a job with the language that I know?

And they said, no, you have to take a placement test and we put you, whatever you test that. I said, okay, I’ll think about it. Thank you. Went next door to the Army, said the same thing. Hey, I’m a native born German. Can you guarantee me a job? Yeah, yeah, it’s sign right here.

Wendy: Excellent.

Michael: So I signed. I served for the U.S. Army. Of course, I was a naturalized citizen years before that.

Wendy: Right.

Michael: And then I worked for the military as a linguist. And, uh, I guess they figured since I already spoke German it wouldn’t be that hard for me to learn Russian. So they sent me to Monterey, California for a whole year. That was beautiful. It was like a vacation….for my wife.

Wendy: Not so much for you.

Michael: No, I had early morning formations and PT tests and had to learn Russian, which is a pretty tough language to learn. And then I served in the military for almost 10 years. Uh, different missions here and there, different jobs. And then decided to get out. My last assignment was over in, in Yugoslavia with the, the Balkan conflict that was there and figured, you know, I need to focus more on my family and my future.

So we got out, came back to Utah and went to BYU, used my Army college fund money that I had earned through the military and started getting a bachelor’s degree in linguistics. And one day my wife called me up and said, Hey, they’ve got an opening at Provo High School for a tracker. I said, what’s a tracker?

I don’t know, go find out. So, that’s how I started working for Provo High School. I was actually working for the school district already as an after school program. Tutor.

Wendy: Yep.

Michael: And, uh, after I was done with my classes at BYU, I went to Provost Elementary and helped the kids in their after school classes and stuff.

Technically, I’m not retired. I’m just a veteran. Not active duty, but, you know, once it’s in you, it’s always in you.

Wendy: Yep.

Michael: You can take the person out of the service, but you can’t take the service out of the person. Maybe that’s why I do so much at Provo High School. Anytime they need anything, I’ll, I’ll, yeah.

Wendy: You’ll help out?

Michael: Yes, of course.

Wendy: So tell us what you’re teaching now at Provo High.

Michael: Well, it’s actually interesting because I was very lucky to get hired at Provo High School as a tracker. It was the only time they offered a tracking position with a contract.

Wendy: Okay, so like a full time position.

Michael: Yeah, full time position as a tracker. And I worked for about two years. When the principal came up to me and said, you speak Russian, don’t you? Yeah, I learned it in the military. The Army had me as a Russian linguist as well. The State Office of Education wants to put critical languages into the high schools, Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Japanese. Would you be interested in teaching it? Yeah, sure, of course. I’d love to teach. You know, every time I walk past the teachers in their teacher meetings, they’re like, oh, I wish I could go in there. Now I know better.

Wendy: Now you’re like, am I sure?

Michael: Some days. It just depends on the day sometimes, right? So the principal, Sam Ray, he helped me through the alternate route of licensure.

Wendy: Oh, good.

Michael: Get my teaching license and get tested through Russian so I could start teaching Russian and then he had me do one Russian class every other day

Wendy: Okay,

Michael: because it was just starting in the school. There weren’t a lot of students so I did mostly tracking and then one Russian class and that just kept growing and growing and now I teach Russian, German, and World Geography.

Wendy: Oh, there you go. Don’t do tracking anymore.

Michael: Nope. Full time teacher, right here.

Wendy: That’s awesome. You know, I think people have all of these perceptions as to what it’s like to be in the military. Tell us what you wish people knew it was like being in the military. What, what your daily routines were and what the expectations were, what you learned from it that you feel like really people just have no idea.

Michael: Well, it’s definitely not what people see in the movies. Even being a dependent before, because my stepfather was in the military and I saw what he went through and it was definitely different. You have to show up for early morning formations, 6 o’clock the flag goes up, so by 5 you have to be ready to stand in straight lines. Very disciplined, very straight down, you know, still remember in basic training having to do push ups because I didn’t do things right. Or even somebody else did it wrong, everybody paid the price. Everybody got punished. So it’s a very community-based mentality, because if you’re in combat, it’s not just you. You have to rely on your, your buddies, your friends. And so if one person messes us up, it can be really bad for a lot of people. But we started six in the morning and they always told us by nine o’clock, when the rest of the world gets up, we’ve already done most everything. And it’s not a lie. It’s true.

We started really early in the morning. I mean, like a teacher. We show up at 7, we go home at 3, sometimes we go home at 4 or 5. But you’re still a teacher the rest of the day. You check your emails, you grade papers, you update everything. Military’s pretty much the same. Even though you show up from 6 till 5, you can get called in at any time.

And I think that was one of the hardest things. Even though the military has gotten a lot better since when I was in, in helping, taking care of the family, the wife, the kids, or the husband, whoever’s in the military. Whoever gets left behind, they do try to take really good care of them and help them and support them.

But family separation was definitely the hardest. Going away for a week, a month, a year, three years, you don’t know when you’re coming back, if you’re coming back. Your family sometimes doesn’t even know where you are or what you’re doing. And I think a lot of times people forget that, that it is a very…emotional and stressful job and, uh, I would say that 99 percent of the people who serve in the military, even for just three years, they all come back with something that nowadays we call it P.T.S.D. We’ve just seen and heard and witnessed things that are, that nobody understands. Yeah, I mean, my family loves watching movies and sometimes we’ll be watching a movie and all of a sudden my son will just kind of look over at me, dad’s crying again.

And people don’t understand that. It’s just a normal everyday thing can set somebody off because of hidden, buried things that they’ve experienced. There’s so many people out there that are still doing and giving and even as a veteran, I appreciate everything they do. We have what we have in this country because of our service, men and women, whatever they’re doing.

And even though I served, I will never be able to pay them back for what they’re doing for us now. It’s just, even though I experienced it and went through it, I thank them.

Wendy: Right.

Michael: The things that you’re describing, that you give up as a result of serving the United States, it’s, it’s something that I don’t think, unless you have someone in your family that’s been part of it, that you really understand what that sacrifice is.

Wendy: Certainly.

Michael: Veterans Day is special to me and I always make sure that my lessons are, caught up in thought so I can actually give a little Veterans Day presentation in my classes to my students. And lots of students are like, wow, I didn’t know that. And others are like, I have an uncle or a brother who’s serving. Thank you so much for that lesson. And it just, it opens the eyes of the people.

Wendy: Yes, it does. Tell us were there times when you were separated from your family and how long was that? What kinds of things get you through those hard times when that happens if you want to talk about that and if that’s too emotional don’t don’t worry about it because I really do think that’s something that people don’t understand the stress that that has on a person when you’re removed from that support.

Michael: Well, it’s always important to have something to hold on to. For me, it’s always been my family. Whether it was basic training or a week long training exercise in the middle of the Arizona desert, or even a year deployment down in Yugoslavia, I always did everything in mind with, I’m getting back to my family, my kids, my wife.

They’re waiting for me. And I have to do this mission. Complete my mission so I can go home, return to them, because they depend on me, and right now, I’m depending on them. And I think that’s really what got me through it all, having something, a solid anchor to hold on to, because… A lot of times, you don’t know what’s going to happen.

I mean, you train in the trainings, prepare yourself for the missions, but the enemy doesn’t follow your trainings. They do whatever they want to do, whenever they want to do it, so you always have to be ready. And, uh, knowing my family was waiting for me is really what got me through it.

Wendy: What is the most rewarding experience you had in the military or maybe a couple of things or something where you look back and, and think, wow, that was, I’m grateful for that experience. It shaped me in this way.

Michael: I can’t give too many specifics, but at one point I was temporarily assigned, when I was stationed in Germany, as a strategic debriefer. So an interrogator questions the enemy for information during time of war. So a strategic debriefer questions people during time of peace when they want to seek political asylum.

And, uh, I was able to talk with a Russian military commander who was defecting from the Soviet Union trying to get safety for himself and his wife. And also to be able to talk to a Mongolian person who worked in a Mongolian uranium mining facility for the Soviet Union.

Wendy: Wow.

Michael: And, uh, just getting information from them, helping them to establish their safety, their political asylum in the West was very rewarding, very nice.

The other one that I would really say is even though it was very devastating, to see what was taking place and happening was being able to go to Bosnia after the Serbians had gone through and rampaged former Yugoslavia, ethnic cleansing on the Muslims and stuff, being able to reestablish peace and bringing safety and security to those places was definitely rewarding. Even though I was separated from my family, it was still nice to be able to do something for those people and bring them safety. And when we look at that part of the world now, it’s like places people go on vacation, which is, at that time, no way would people have done that. So there’s a level of stability that’s been brought there as a result of that.

Wendy: Yeah, it’s definitely changed.

Michael: When, when I was there with the… U. S. military driving down the street. You’d see a nice house, nice house. This house is half blown up. Next house is 50 caliber rounds shooting through the walls just because of a religious difference.

Wendy: Yeah, I remember when they did the Sarajevo Olympics, and then they were going back and doing some – it was a news agency that was showing all of the Olympic facilities after that crisis and they had just been completely leveled and devastated. So you witnessed all of that firsthand as to what was taking place. What was a frustrating experience that you had serving in the military? You’ve already described a lot of the hardships that are tied to it, but what is a frustrating part of that service?

Michael: I guess it would still be the separation from family. I mean, missing birthdays, Christmases, things like that.

Wendy: Tell us how you coped with that. Like what are the strategies that you used as a family to stay connected at those really important times?

Michael: Well, again, the military does try to do its best to keep families together, even through deployments. There are missions that, obviously you can’t, you can’t for the safety of the soldiers, you just can’t know where they are, what they’re doing. But like when I was in Bosnia, I was there for, for a whole one year tour. I was going to miss Christmas and birthdays and whatnot. So we were able to communicate through email, through video chats and stuff on a regular basis with our families back home. My wife would put together care packages. She put a little felt Christmas tree in a box and sent it to me. And I was able to hang it on the wall. Um, had kids draw pictures and, and stuff. And those are always nice. Military personnel definitely look forward to care packages, whether it’s from their own families or just anyone.

And there’s lots of groups out there that actually provide care packages for service members. On tours, or missions, or just on deployments, wherever. And those are really nice. People always say, when you get a package from home, it’s worth a thousand dollars or whatever. And it definitely is. I mean, just, when mail call comes, and you’re like, yeah, you’re there.

I mean, a lot of people watch the old TV show, M.A.S.H.

Wendy: Yes.

Michael: And uh, they’re always there for mail call, anything for me, anything for me. And that’s, that’s exactly what it was, people waiting for a letter or a package or anything from home.

Wendy: Do you feel like that’s changed at all with, um, new technology or is that technology still kind of tied down because of the security of the missions that are, that are often, you know, that they’re involved with?

Michael: Again, it depends on the mission. I mean. I’ve been in places where there was absolutely no cell phone signals, and obviously I was in the military when cell phones were still just new and coming out and stuff. But I had, I had a platoon leader who had a cell phone and they communicated with their family on a daily basis through their cell phone.

And then when I was in Bosnia, I could send emails every day. So It was cool. Technology has definitely made it easier and if you have your own personal cell phone there’s nothing that says that you can’t text or whatever just make sure you don’t text classified information or details that could put you in danger or your family in danger but yeah technology has definitely made it easier.

Wendy: That’s good. What are some of the ways that you would like to see us as a nation honor our veterans and pay tribute to them? Because I, I don’t always feel like that tribute is there the way that it needs to be. And so as a person who has served, what are the actions that we can take that would mean something to you and what do we need to be doing as individuals in our society to show our gratitude and to really connect with the individuals who have made that sacrifice?

Michael: We’ve definitely come a long way. I remember when my father, my stepfather, was in the service. It was different. And I remember, I mean, I wasn’t there, but I remember when people would come home from Vietnam. People would spit on them and throw stuff at them and stuff. And, uh, I’ve seen commercials and I’ve actually experienced firsthand coming home from, uh, assignment traveling through a local airport in my uniform carrying my military bags and people just cheer, applaud. That means a lot. That says a lot.

And just doing things like that, I mean, when you see somebody in uniform. Just say, hey, thank you for your service. That says a lot. I do a lot of home remodeling myself, so I spend a lot of time at Lowe’s. They actually have designated veterans parking for veterans.

Wendy: Oh, there you go.

Michael: That says a lot.

Wendy: Yes, it does.

Michael: And they’ll actually decorate it on Veterans Day and stuff. That says a lot. And then when you go someplace where they give a special discount for military or veterans. And you say, hey, I’d like to use my military discount. And they say, oh, thank you for your service. Those things, those are priceless.

Wendy: Those things are awesome. Those are important ways in which we recognize the everything that, that this entails, right? The separation from family, the hard work, all of those pieces that come together. In what ways did serving in the military, serving the United States of America, how has it influenced your attitudes and feelings about our country?

Michael: Well, growing up in Germany… I’ve always wanted to come to the States. I always kind of wanted to live in America. America was always portrayed through the movies and everything has this great land, this place of freedom, and it definitely is. Having lived here for most of my life now, it definitely is a place of opportunity and… a place where you can achieve your dreams, your goals. Serving in the military, I would say, has definitely made me respect the flag more. It, it means a lot more to me now than it… ever did before. I was willing to, when I was in the military, give my life for this country and I would probably still be willing to if the need came.

There is just, having been throughout the world on military missions and assignments, seeing the hardships, the struggles that people have, even just to go to school and get an education or go to the store to buy groceries. Is it going to be safe? Is there going to be a car bomb that’s going to blow up?

Or back in the Yugoslavian struggle, is there going to be a sniper on the roof that’s going to shoot me as I’m just trying to buy milk for my children? I mean, we don’t have those fears. We don’t have those problems. It definitely makes me respect this country, the freedoms, the rights that we have here, and makes me wish that we would just all be willing to spread that throughout the world and give that opportunity to everybody.

But it definitely does take sacrifice to achieve that. Great. And, and I think you’ve brought up such an important point about, yes, are there always things that we can make better in our society, but all of the examples you’ve given are, like, we have no idea in so many cases of how fortunate and how blessed we are, um, to be.

I mean, we have people in our school district that come from places like that who have left their homes, whether Latin America, Asia, or Europe, who have those kinds of fears and those problems. And sometimes we don’t realize we have people who have experienced those things right here in our own schools.

Wendy: That’s right. I was at Wasatch Elementary last week and it was, I was asking the kids what they were grateful for and one of the students said, I’m just grateful like I have a beautiful building to go to a school in, you know, and it just made you take pause. Like there are kids that go to school outside or that don’t, you know, don’t have those opportunities.

It’s, it’s pretty incredible what we do have access to here. So what advice would you give to those who are considering service in the military, especially your high school students who are like, yeah, I want to join the army or the air force or what, what kinds of things would you want to share with them?

Michael: It’s definitely a life changing event to serve. And I would always tell them, remember that the people you’re going to encounter, they’re people just like you. Many times people do things because they don’t know any better. And… It’s not like it was in the past where I’m gonna go kill myself a commie, you know, right?

We’re all people we’re all looking for the same things for freedom, safety, for security and It’s gonna be a sacrifice for sure. Just the separation alone, whether you’re leaving your parents or whether you’re gonna be married and leave your wife or husband, it’s gonna be a sacrifice, but I would never discourage anybody from serving. And I’ve actually had students who’ve come up to me and said, Hey, I’ve, I’ve signed my papers after high school graduation. I’m going to the Marines. I’m going to the army, the Air Force, whatever. And I congratulate him and I say, best of luck to you, thanks for making that decision. Make sure you come visit me when you have a chance and we’ll talk, but it’s definitely a life changing decision, a life changing experience.

Wendy: Yes. And I appreciate too that you’re saying, I would never discourage anyone from doing this, like just even the sacrifices that you’re making, that’s worth it, um, is what I’m hearing from you in the end, that you’re grateful for that. And as much as it still was a huge sacrifice there. What ways did the military prepare you for other things that you have encountered in life? You kind of alluded a little bit to, in some ways, how teaching is a little bit like being in the military, about how you’re always on, right? You’re, you’re always thinking about your students and that type of thing.

Michael: Well, when you’re in the military, whether Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, even Coast Guard, you sacrifice. You’re basically not yourself. You can’t always make decisions based off of what you want to do. When you want to do it. I mean, if it was my choice, I’d sleep until eight, but I have to be at formation at six, you know, now I’d like to sleep until eight, but I have to be to work at seven, get a little extra time in the morning, working for, for my school, for my students.

I still have to sacrifice, have to give up my own time. Sometimes I have to attend meetings and trainings and not always do the things the way that I might think would be the best or what I would like to do. But we do it for the benefit of all of us – for the students, for the teachers, for the staff members and in that way It’s kind of the same. I mean, I don’t have to go running in formation with the rest of the teachers, but we do join in competitions. We got Provo vs. Provo going on right now.

Wendy: That’s right. There’s a lot of things that are similar. What opportunities have opened up to you as a result of serving in the military? Or are there opportunities that you would like students to think about could open up to them as a result of it?

Michael: Well, there’s lots of opportunities. Any training you get in the military can definitely open up a door afterwards for a possible job. The reason I got to be a teacher is because I learned Russian through the military. I never thought that learning Russian for the Army would help me become a teacher, but it did. Definitely when you serve, you can request to have the Army college fund program for yourself, which will help you pay for college afterwards.

I mean, when I went in, it was $25,000. I’m pretty sure it’s a lot more now. College is a lot more expensive, but I mean, even $25,000 for schooling can go a long way. Language training to be a teacher. Become a mechanic for the military if you want to be a mechanic in civilian life. You can go through medical training, become a dentist or a doctor for the military, and then bring that over into civilian life after.

So there’s lots and lots of opportunities. I feel like the military teaches you a lot about leadership, collaboration, learning to work as a team, fulfilling a mission, like, you know, and you’re persevering, right? And you have… You have all these really great plans of as to how this is going to go. And it never goes that way.

And so being able to kind of be creative and think on the spot and get everyone together to, to do that, those are really important skills that I think everybody acknowledges. Beyond that, we used to call it tap dancing in the Army. So when you plan for something and it doesn’t work out and you have to tap dance and figure out what you’re going to do, you plan for a lesson.

Students aren’t getting it, you’re going to have to tap dance and figure out what I’m going to do now to help them understand what you’re trying to teach them, whether it’s math, English, history, or whatever, you know, not everybody’s going to get it from the way that you plan. So, yeah.

Wendy: That’s a great analogy. I appreciate that. That’s incredible. What are some of the most important principles that you think we should stand for as a nation and how did your experience in the military contribute to your views of that?

Michael: What we have at Provo High definitely sums it up with integrity, diversity. I mean, we all come from different places and when I was in the military, I was definitely the only German in my unit, in my entire company probably.

But there were other people from Mexico and other Hispanic places, from all over in the States. We all came from different backgrounds. But yet we work together to get the mission done. And I think as a nation, if we can just accept that, even though we come from different places, we have different backgrounds, maybe we speak a different native language, we’re all in this country to work together to not only keep, but make this country better to achieve.

What we all want, which is happiness, security, freedom, continue to get education, get a family, get a home of our own, maybe start our own business. It shouldn’t matter where we’re from or what we look like or what we believe in. If we work together, we can get the mission done. We really do want it to be a land of opportunity for all.

Yeah. I mean, I think that’s what we’re hoping for. I mean, when this great nation was built, it was a melting pot. People came from Europe, every country in Europe. England, Germany, Italy, Sweden. They came from all over for whatever purpose, whatever reason. And they worked together to build this nation. We can still do it and continue to make this nation better.

Wendy: Agreed. Is there anything else that you would like to share as we’re honoring our veterans on Veterans Day that we haven’t touched on yet or something you would like to say or just let people know?

Michael: You’re here in this nation. We’ve got people sacrificing to allow you to be here, to have the freedoms that you have. Respect them. Thank them. Work with them to keep it great. And together, we can just continue to move forward.

Wendy: Yes. Well, thank you so much and just want you to know how appreciative I am of your service both as a veteran and also as a teacher in Provo City School District and everything that you’re doing.

Michael: Thank you.

Wendy: To influence our students. It’s incredible. And it’s beautiful. It’s been a pleasure to speak with you today.

Michael: Thank you for having me.

Wendy: Thank you for joining me for this week’s episode of What’s Up With the Sup. As always, all episodes will be posted on YouTube, the district website, and wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any topics or questions you would like us to discuss on the podcast, please email us at podcast@provo.edu.

We have been getting some great suggestions, so keep those coming. In continuing our focus on gratitude for the month of November, we have a very special episode next week. We sat down with seniors at all three of our high schools to talk about teachers that have made an impact on their education and in some cases, their lives. Please join us as these students share stories about the amazing teachers we have in Provo City School District. Until then, have a great week, everyone.

Shauna Sprunger
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