CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Ben Barris usually teaches physics and astronomy at A.C. Jones High School in the Beeville ISD.
As the country prepares to officially commemorate the 20-year mark of the 9/11 terrorist attack -- an event which took place before his students were even born -- the 58-year-old vice-principal shifted gears, choosing to talk about courage and commitment.
They're topics Barris is uncommonly qualified to talk about, having served in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) after that tragic event.
Ret. Army Lt. Col. Barris directed and coordinated military engineering and communications networks throughout 27 countries (including Iraq and Afghanistan). He retired from the Army after 23 years of service.
On Tuesday, he passed on his life and military experience to an auditorium filled with students learning about law enforcement, students who will one day be our future leaders; some will actually fight to defend our freedoms.
On this day, Barris wants to make sure every one of these students appreciates the sacrifices made to fight terrorism -- those who gave of themselves, and those who gave all.
And his message was well received.
Kyleigh Guerrero is one of the students who wants to eventually work in law enforcement. She said Barris gave an thought-provoking speech that resonated with her and her fellow students about that fateful day 20 years ago.
"You should remember 9/11," she said. "It was a very emotional event that happened nationwide, and it was very tragic it had to happen."
Joseph Chapa plans to join the military after graduation. He said Barris is an inspiration and a role model for service.
"I always wanted to serve," he said. "I wanted to have people have the right to be free, and not having to worry about not being free."
This class may not have seen tragedy unfold all those years ago, but they didn't have to in order to fully understand the importance of service and sacrifice.
Via Tuesday's critical and timely discussion, Jones students were able to see it embodied in the man standing in front of them: their vice-principal and hero, Ben Barris.
"It (9-11) was a horrible horrible day, but in the midst of the horror, we saw incredible service," Barris said.