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Defense Secretary Teaches Class at El Paso High School

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

EL PASO, Texas, Jan. 13, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta taught a history class and talked about public service with students at John L. Chapin High School here today as part his visit to nearby Fort Bliss.

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Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta teaches a history class at John L. Chapin High School in El Paso, Texas, Jan. 13, 2012. Students of Kristina Mills’ 11th grade U.S. history class were treated to a candid discussion about national security and foreign threats. Panetta also took the opportunity to thanks students from military families based on nearby Fort Bliss for their sacrifices. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett

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Roughly half of the student body of this school comes from military families, and the school honors the men of the 36th Infantry Division’s Company E, 2nd Battalion, 141st Infantry, a local Texas National Guard unit that fought across Europe in World War II.

Panetta taught Kristina Mills’ 11th grade U.S. history class. He spoke about the opportunity that America offered his family when his parents arrived in the United States from Italy in the 1930s.

“My father and mother made clear that my brother and I owed something back to the country that had given us so much,” Panetta said.

He said his parents were his greatest influence in pursuing a life of public service, and his second inspiration was the time he spent as a military intelligence officer in the early 1960s.

“When you are in the military, you understand the importance of working together for a common mission,” he said. “It reinforced to me how important it is to work together.”

Panetta said his third inspiration came from President John F. Kennedy, who called on Americans in January 1961 to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

All this inspired him to service, the secretary said.

Panetta thanked the military family members for their service and their sacrifices. Roughly 45 percent of the school’s 1,900 students come from Fort Bliss or William Beaumont Army Medical Center.

Richard Tellez, a retired soldier, is the school’s military family liaison. He works with parents, post officials and the school district to ensure the needs of military families are met.

Many service members at the post have deployed numerous times, and that brings its own set of problems and challenges, said Carla Gonzales, Chapin’s principal. “But the cooperation between Fort Bliss and the school has been exceptional,” she said.

Many students who graduate from Chapin go into the military, Gonzales said, adding that she is particularly proud of the number of students who go on to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colo.

“We have had one student who went to the Naval Academy prep school, too,” she added.


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Leon E. Panetta

Related Sites:
Special Report: Travels With Panetta
Photo Essay: Panetta Visits Texas High School Class

Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Leon E. Panetta talks about basketball with a John L. Chapin High School student in El Paso, Texas, Jan. 13, 2012. About half of the school's students have parents who serve as soldiers on nearby Fort Bliss. DOD Photo by Glenn Fawcett  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageTeacher Kristina Mills covers her heart as she presents Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta with a box containing a POW bracelet once owned by a close relative who was killed while serving in the military, after Panetta taught a class to John L. Chapin High School students in El Paso, Texas, Jan. 13, 2012. DOD Photo by Glenn Fawcett  
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