Honoring the Veterans in our CPS Family
SCHOOLS | November 10, 2021
Honoring the Veterans in our CPS Family

Veterans Day is a time to acknowledge and display gratitude for the individuals who have dedicated their time and talent to serving our country. After retiring from service, some veterans choose to join our district as part of our Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program. Get to know four of them below. Happy Veterans Day!

LTC (Ret.) Ezinwa Nwankpa, Commandant and Leadership Program Manager, manages the JROTC Leadership program at Chicago Military Academy. He served in the military for 21 years, with his background being in logistics. As a leader in the JROTC Leadership community, his focus is mentorship, specifically supporting students and families in graduating and choosing a postsecondary path that will help them reach their full potential. 

LTC (Ret.) Nwankpa is constantly working with his school’s counseling team to ensure that students are taking advantage of programs and resources that are directly relevant to their interests. He also takes the time to directly encourage students to keep their grades up and treat each other with respect. LTC (Ret.) Nwankpa sees Veterans Day as a time to think about how fortunate we are to have others making sacrifices on our country’s behalf. 

“When you observe how we come together to thank and support our veterans, it makes you pause and realize that we are more alike than different,” he said. “We should continue to encourage and support each other to build a greater America and a greater world.” 

Chief Les Thomas is a naval science instructor at Rickover Naval Academy. He served in the Navy from 1985 to 2007. His main takeaways from his service were his interactions with individuals from different backgrounds as he traveled between different countries around the world. Now, as an educator, he often reminds his students that the freedoms that they enjoy are the direct results of our country’s veterans. 

Chief Thomas believes that the best part of his current role is knowing that he’s making a positive impact on future generations. Students who have graduated often come back to Rickover to thank him for how he was able to support them and help them become successful. 

“I think I can give students a lot of insight based on my career, even though times are a little different today,” he said. “Even though my students have different goals, I think they all understand where they need to be and how they can get there. I just try to be genuine and there for them.” 

Gunnery Sergeant Dallas Bibbs works with students at Westinghouse College Prep. He completed three combat tours with the Marine Corps between 1988 and 2008. While he acknowledges that many people associate Marines solely with fighting, he says that some of the most impactful parts of his service have been connected to saving lives during natural disasters and other humanitarian crises. 

Veterans Day always reminds Gunnery Sergeant Bibbs of the strong support system of other veterans that he is involved with. He knows that he can always call one of his fellow veterans to help him work through a problem or make a tough decision. Thus, he tries to bring that same level of support to his role as an educator. 

“I try to set an example that makes the students enthusiastic about coming to school,” he said. “With the pandemic, we want them to feel comfortable and know that it’s okay to make mistakes, especially if it’s a positive mistake that they can learn from.”

Major Christopher Bonds is a senior military instructor at Gage Park High School. He participated in JROTC programs himself and served in the military for 27 years, the last seven of them in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait. His perspective on his current role is to focus on the importance of connecting students with opportunities based on their interests. 

While veterans are, of course, highlighted on Veterans Day, Major Bonds wants our country to be reminded that the families of veterans are also consistently making sacrifices and performing acts of service. When it comes to his students, adhering to core values of integrity and respect is what he believes will take them far in life. 

“These core values have helped me be successful, but I know that my success was predicated on the shoulders of those that served before me,” he said. “Yes, I spent 27 years in the military, but a lot of men and women spent many, many years in service prior to me. That perspective helps me stay focused and reflect on what being a veteran truly means to me.”