WWII Veteran Brings History to Life for Polk Middle School Students

World War II Veteran James "Jim" Comer Baynham captivated an audience of students at Polk Middle School on May 13. The 99-year-old resident of Brookdale Senior Living in Garland spoke about his service in the Army Air Corps and the sacrifices made by his fellow crewmen.

Baynham, who enlisted at 19 and trained as a pilot, recounted missions with his crew and the experiences they had. On September 27, 1944, during their final mission, their B-24 bomber fell victim to a swarm of roughly 150 enemy FW-190 fighters over Germany. Tragedy struck that day - four crew members perished, and two more suffered lifelong disabilities. Five of the crewmen, including Baynham, were captured as prisoners of war for eight-months after evacuating the aircraft.  Ray Lemmons, the flight's engineer, recently passed away at the age of 103, leaving Baynham as the sole survivor of his crew.

The speech offered a glimpse into the war's impact on those who served. Baynham spoke fondly of his crewmates, their camaraderie and the emotional and physical weight they carried.

“They were patriots,” Baynham said. “Although they were proud of what they did, they never showed it much. But the toll on them was horrific. I will continue to share their memories again and again and again.”

The invitation for Mr. Baynham to speak at Polk came from Terri Moore, the school's librarian, who connected with him through her mother, a fellow resident at Brookdale. Moore recognized the value of connecting students with history and saw this as a unique opportunity.

"I have many students who are fascinated by World War II," Moore said. "Meeting Mr. Baynham allowed them to connect with someone who actually lived through what they were reading about."

Following the speech, students had the opportunity to engage and ask questions. The event concluded with a celebration for Baynham's upcoming 100th birthday.

The Polk Middle School social studies department also played a key role in organizing the event, ensuring a meaningful encounter between students and a living piece of history.

"I truly believe this was a once in a lifetime opportunity," Moore said. "It brought history to life for our students."

In honor of Memorial Day, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD wants to thank all men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the United States military. Events like these serve as a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by our Veterans and the importance of preserving their stories.

Many CFBISD students choose to serve in the military after graduation. The CCMR (College, Career, and Military Readiness) department plays a pivotal role in educating K-12 students about the military. On high school campuses, students have the option to sign up to take the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) at their campus, which helps with career exploration and military entrance. Scholars can also request a meeting with the military in which CCMR facilitates the connection. Many of the careers that students explore through CFBISD’s CTE programs are available in the military. Campuses recognize these scholars at Senior Walks and the military branches provide stoles for the scholar to wear at graduation. For more information, please visit the CCMR website.