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By Jonathan Gotlib
Groton, MA -- April 14 marked the 10th year that Vietnam veteran Jim Lockney has visited the Lawrence Academy campus to work with John Curran’s history classes.
Lockney, who served six years in the US military as a “combat interrogator” and during his multiple tours in Southeast Asia, moved around from theater to theater using his skills as a linguist, transcriber, and translator during the Vietnam War.
These days, Jim has a more sedentary (and sedate) assignment - teaching down the road at Groton School alongside Ms. Jennifer Wallace.
“I co-teach America in Vietnam,” said Lockney. “The way the class is set up it’s all about conversation.
“It’s all about interaction with the kids.”
At LA, that interaction with Jim started thanks to his friendship with Rob Olsen (LA’s Associate Director of Admissions). Mr. Olsen, who worked with Lockney at Groton, recommended the veteran to Mr. Curran and an invitation followed soon thereafter.
“Well, I had no idea what to expect the first time,” said Curran. “I just thought, well, it would be a good idea to bring in somebody who really experiences stuff and see what happens with the kids.”
Asked if he makes special appearances anywhere else, Jim simply said, “Not really—I’m happy here and happy [at Groton School].
“It’s enough, you know? I mean, I love coming here,” he said.
During his most recent visit, students from Mr. Curran’s “Nukes and Commies” classes gathered together in the Media Conference Center to listen to Jim’s stories about Vietnam and ask questions about his often-harrowing experiences.
“They want me to pour out my soul, you know, and it’s not easy to do,” he said. “There are times I struggle.
“I mean I’ll admit it,” he added, “it’s a little hard for me, because you get emotional.”
However, it wasn’t hard to see how much the students appreciated his insights.
Simply by counting the number of hands raised and smiles in the room, it’s clear that Mr. Curran’s students learned a lot from Mr. Lockney and very much enjoyed Jim’s visit to class.
“It’s always a pretty amazing experience, you know? I think he really likes our kids,” said Curran. “He loves interacting with them, and the kids really love him.
“It gives everybody that human dimension to it…[and] It’s kind of cool to have somebody ‘real life’ to talk to; [somebody who experienced] the history that we study.”