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“Veteran Teachers:” New meaning for Greenhills faculty who served in military

As citizens around the world pause on Nov. 11 to honor the veterans who have served them, members of the Greenhills family are learning that some of their teachers have interesting military backgrounds, themselves.

Greenhills’ faculty veterans come from three different countries: the United States, Canada, and France. And, while each country knows November 11 by a different name—Veterans Day, Remembrance Day, and Armistice Day—the somber sentiment is the same, no matter the country.

So, as much of the world reflects on the sacrifices veterans have made through the years, the Greenhills community says a special thanks to those veterans on the Greenhills faculty who continue their lives of service in the civilian world—as teachers.

See a Flickr album of photos from their military service

Here are some highlights of their stories:

deano headshotBefore he became a Greenhills science teacher and 11th grade class principal, and before he earned his PhD at the University of Michigan, Dr. Deano Smith had a different title: Lt. D.R. Smith, USN. He joined the Navy in 1986 after graduating from Utah State with bachelor’s degrees in physics and mathematics. He was a nuclear propulsion officer candidate, and earned the equivalent of a master’s degree in nuclear engineering while undergoing training. Then, after submarine training, it was off to the fleet for now-Ens. Smith. He served aboard the fast attack submarine USS Flasher, and, in keeping with the traditions of what submariners call “the silent service,” he now says “That’s about all I can say about that.”

Smith went on to pilot two of the Navy’s special deep-submergence vessels designed to rescue stricken submariners, and was responsible for certifying that other deep-diving vessels could operate at depths of as much as 20,000 feet.

By 1993, despite the urging of his commanding officers, Smith decided to separate from the Navy.

“I greatly enjoyed and grew from my adventures, but I wished to pursue another passion: a deeper understanding of the world, indeed the universe, through scientific research,” he says. “And that’s what brought me and my wife to Ann Arbor.”

Greenhills French teacher Thomas Husson also has a colorful military history, although his story begins in Europe, not the United States. husson headshotHusson joined the French army in 1997 and served in the scout unit of the Marine Expeditionary Force.

“In France,” Husson explains, “The Marines belong to the Army, not the Navy like in the U.S.A.”

Husson spent the next eight years as a specialist—a sniper and signals expert in military intelligence. After suffering what he calls “a couple of injuries,” he also spent time as an instructor. Then, after 12 years of service, Staff Sergeant Husson—about to be promoted to First Sergeant—left the service in 2008. He had served in Senegal, Bosnia, Croatia, Corsica, and the Ivory Coast.

For Greenhills music teacher Neil Donato, the U.S. Army presented an opportunity to put to work his freshly earned bachelor’s degree in music. After graduating from West Virginia University he enlisted in the Army, serving on active duty as a piano player with the United States Continental Army Band (now known as the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command Band). But the life of an Army musician is highly varied, and Sgt. Donato also played as a member of the concert band, the ceremonial band, a jazz ensemble and a rock group.

neil headshotDonato served a four-year tour, from 1994 to 1998, then, after his discharge, was able to earn a Master of Music degree at U-M, thanks to the GI Bill.

Donato isn’t alone among Greenhills faculty who helped the military make music. Greenhills science teacher Cathy Renaud served as a musician in the Canadian naval reserve, joining as a high school senior in her hometown of Hamilton, Ontario. She drilled with her unit, HMCS Starr, every week, “where we practiced and were inspected by the commanding officer. This meant wearing my uniform—and polishing my shoes!”

Even before she enlisted, Renaud was no stranger to military life. Her parents had served in the Naval Reserve 1985Canadian Air Force, and Renaud spent her early years on military bases. Today she credits her service in the naval reserve with shaping her life and helping pay for her university studies, as well as helping her see parts of her vast native country that she might not otherwise have seen.

Greenhills prides itself on the diversity of experience at work every day on campus. Those who have served realize that same diversity of experience applies in the armed forces, too.

And they’re happy to bring that experience home to Greenhills, where they know they can continue to serve.

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