Seeing literature brought to life; Students speak with Lt. Colonel over Skype

About 130 sixth-grade students have a Skype conversation with Lt. Colonel Bruce Bredlow with the United States Army Friday afternoon. The students spoke with him about PTSD and other subjects to help make connections to the book they read in language arts, "A Soldier's Heart," by Gary Paulsen. Photo provided.

About 130 sixth-grade students have a Skype conversation with Lt. Colonel Bruce Bredlow with the United States Army Friday afternoon. The students spoke with him about PTSD and other subjects to help make connections to the book they read in language arts, “A Soldier’s Heart,” by Gary Paulsen. Photo provided.

A group of sixth-graders at I.J. Holton Intermediate School got the chance to connect their language arts reading with real life Friday afternoon.

The group of about 130 sixth-graders at I.J. Holton Intermediate School was given the opportunity to learn about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from Lt. Colonel Bruce Bredlow with the U.S. Army via Skype. The students have been studying the book “A Soldier’s Heart,” which deals with PTSD during the Civil War. Sixth-grade language arts teacher Cori McRae thought it would be beneficial for her students to speak with someone who actually deals with PTSD in real life, and when she asked her brother-in-law to speak with her class he didn’t hesitate.

“It was fantastic,” McRae said.

Bredlow specializes in training soldiers to go into battle and helps them when they come back from the war. McRae recalled him speaking about the differences of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress and Post Traumatic Growth. During the 30-minute session, he also discussed how PTSD doesn’t only happen to soldiers.

“This applies in any area of your life,” McRae recalled him saying. “If you’re faced with a situation that’s really traumatic, how can you grow from that situation?”

The students also asked him questions ranging from his personal experiences with PTSD to the impact of combat on brain development.

McRae said many of the students have been touched by PTSD in one fashion or another, even if they didn’t know it.

But it was nice to hear Bredlow explain that anyone can experience this. She was also glad to make the real-life connection between their experiences and the book.

“It was a nice tie-in because I was able to talk with my students afterward that some of the things they think are really big problems in their life … it’s nice to be able to say, how can you grow from this situation,” McRae said. “How can you take this negative situation and turn it into a positive.”

She recalled one student making the connection between the book and a relative who had committed suicide after returning from the war due to PTSD. She recalled another student who said he wasn’t going to read the book because he hated reading, and after convincing him to just give it a try, he finished the book within a week.

“I think it’s because he was able to make that personal connection with this,” McRae said.

The historical fiction novel “A Soldier’s Heart” by Gary Paulsen follows young soldier Charlie Goddard from Winona, which helped give many students a personal connection to the story and fueled their desire to learn more.

“So there’s a really nice personal connection,” she said. “It really happened, he really did exist.”

McRae was impressed with how the call went and was excited with how her students reacted.

“I was unbelievably excited for this day and it went better than I could have imagined,” she said.

She noted the students were disappointed the call only lasted 30 minutes, and wanted to ask more questions and spend more time with Bredlow.

“Thirty minutes just wasn’t enough for them, which is a little shocking,” McRae laughed.

“Just to see them excited about it, that they actually listened, took it in and comprehended it, just shows that my overall meaning for it, they got it,” she added.

The conversation was video taped and the video can be found on YouTube at


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