The Chapter founders, from the beginning, were aware of the need to inform the public about the "Forgotten War", and decided that one of the best ways to begin was to reach out to the young people through the schools system. The average history book used in schools devotes a very small amount of space to the Korean War and they wanted to compensate for that by going to the schools to tell the story to the young people firsthand. Nat Young, our first President, formed a Speakers Bureau and contacted the various school districts in the greater Houston area. Many of the schools agreed to having them come to talk to the students. In fact, many of the History and Civics teachers, as well as the Junior ROTC leaders, were happy to take part. They knew history is always most fascinating when the story is told by those who were there. The children turned out to have a lot of interest as well, in many of the visits peppering the group with a variety of questions.
A number of our Chapter members have participated in the program through the years and, in that time, the group has accumulated a great number of artifacts, photos, charts and maps to clarify what the experience was like. It has been a highly successful and rewarding program, with many teachers and schools requesting annual repeat visits. Over the years since the program began we have made hundreds of school visits and spoken to thousands of students.
Unfortunately, Nat Young suffered from ill health in later years and then he subsequently passed away. Another of our members, Lee Henderson, picked up the torch and took over to keep the program alive. Thanks to Lee, the program continued to be a great success. But it will always be Nat Young's enduring legacy.
Typical Speakers Group
(Back Row L-R) Henry Martinez, Jesse Harper, Buddy Blair
(Front L-R) Mickey Spencer, Tom Campion, Lee Henderson
A Tribute To Lee Henderson
His name is Lee Henderson but to hundreds of Houston school kids he is the man with the hand grenade who talks about body lice. Since taking over the program from Nat Young Lee has been the heart and soul of our Education Committee program, and greatly responsible for its continued success.
A longtime Chapter member, Lee tells of how he got involved in the program this way: "Early one morning in March, 1996, before the sun rose, I was awakened by (fellow Chapter member) Marvin Treadwell. He informed me that I was a new member of the Education Committee, and that I needed to be at Bellaire High School by 7 AM."
That was how it all began. Over the last twelve years, as members passed away, Lee moved up until he finally assumed the lead role. The journey from 1996 until now has truly been a memorable one for him. Often rising before the sun came up, he has in that period, made an astonishing total of 147 school visits, including elementary schools (10), middle schools (9), Leader Officer Training Corpus. (7), plus 43 high schools with ROTC programs and 73 high schools with history and government programs. In all, he has traveled over 7,8000 miles around the Greater Houston area, often in recent years doing it all alone as other spearkers have left the program.
Lee's greatest gift is that he was born to play this role. He has a marvelous rapport with the kids and he knows the value of injecting a little humor into his talk, which makes the story more memorable. The teachers all love him because he really brings the Korean War story to life in a way the average history text books do not. To watch him in action is always an enjoyable experience. Over the years he has amassed a wealth of information that he displays, including maps and charts and many photos, all of which he has painstakingly transferred to transparencies, for use on overhead projectors. He probably has photos of every weapon and armored vehicle used in the war by our side and by the enemy as well.
There are two highlight to every presentation. One is when he talks about a time when water was in short supply and they were only allowed to drink it, but not to wash, shave, or brush teeth. After a few weeks people start to get kind of ripe and, as he describes it, "One day I felt something running around my waist under my clothes, then I felt something else running around in the other direction. It was body lice!" At this point, the kids groan and then he puts up a magnified picture of a body louse and they all make a noise of disgust, but they love it and so do the teachers.
The other highlight involves a dummy hand grenade. It looks like the real thing, with spoon and pin included. He inserts caps from a cap pistol and, as he talks about it, he will often pull the pin and then hand it to a student whose eyes open wide as the spoon flies and the cap goes off. The reaction is shocked surprise and then gales of laughter by the kids. The teachers, when they call to invite him to come, often remind him to be sure to bring the hand grenade.
Although Lee was a light machine gunner in the 1st Marine Division in Korean, and saw his share of action, he doesn't focus on battle, but rather on what it was like overall. The kids, for the most part, do the same. When he opens it up for questions, they usually involve things like what did you wear, what did you eat, what was the weather like, how did you go to the bathroom, etc. Their real interest is on the personal side, probably trying to imagine what it might have been like for them. There is no doubt that his style and his humor make it more likely that the kids won't soon forget, "the man with the hand grenade."
Lee retired from the Tell American program in 2004, but no one else stepped forward to take it over, so he resumed doing it. He just couldn't stand to disappoint the teachers and kids. Now he has announced his retirement from the program once again, due to health problems and the need to help his wife, Charlotte, with the care of several grandkids. Hopefully, someone else will step up and take over this time. If not, who knows ...........?
A Texas Lone Star Chapter salute to Lee for a job well done. Semper Fi!