Editor’s Note: Google Expeditions has a number of lessons to help students learn about our military history this Veterans Day. Students can experience the history of World War I, World War II, and the Civil War, understand the key events that shaped those moments, and visit the memorials that commemorate them. Other Expeditions, such as the Artifacts of the Tuskegee Airmen and Pearl Harbor, let students explore planes, submarines, and ships from these historical periods. In addition to these Expeditions, Google Arts & Culture has a dedicated online collection of artifacts, archives, locations and dozens of stories related to World War II, including an online exhibition, Veterans Day: Reflections on Service, where students can hear stories from our veterans.
My days as a history instructor at the United States Military Academy are filled with reflections on military history. Having spent 12 years in the United States Army, I find that the lessons we teach can be deeply personal for me.
Each year in my History of Military Arts course, the students spend time learning about the history of the Civil War. The cadets work through a writing exercise that follows a brigade through a Civil War battle using primary sources. This year, to culminate the project, I incorporated Google Expeditions into the lesson. With Expeditions, the cadets were able to visit key locations in the Battle of Antietam and immerse themselves in the physical locale, all while learning key facts about the event. Reading accounts of a battle is always powerful, but showing my students the battlefield helped to paint a richer picture of this important piece of history. The cadets gained an understanding of the role of terrain in the battle that isn’t possible from written sources alone. Seeing historical images of the battlefield in the immediate aftermath of the battle, side-by-side within the current-day, 360-degree panorama, was especially powerful.
I remember the emotional impact of visiting Arlington National Cemetery on a past Veterans Day. Visiting the graves of over 400,000 active duty service members, veterans, and their families on a day of remembrance brought out a profound feeling of connection. It made me realize how powerful these hallowed places are for our cultural heritage. This year, with the help of Google Expeditions, students learning about our history and honoring those who have served will also be able to experience the poignancy of battlefields and landmarks memorializing those who sacrificed so much for our country.