On a recent winter day, the students from Payson Education Center (PEC) listened intently to Mary Tallouzi as she recounted the heartbreaking tale of her son.
“I received a call from the defense department on Sept. 25, 2006 that changed my life,” she said. “They said, “Your son has been wounded in Iraq. You and your family are on standby.”
Tallouzi’s son, Sgt. Daniel Tallouzi, had brain damage after a mortar attack in Iraq left a piece of shrapnel the size of a quarter in the center of his brain.
For two years, Tallouzi sat at her son’s side, providing constant care. He eventually passed away in 2009, two years after the attack.
Today, Tallouzi works for the Wounded Warrior Project, a group of former military personnel and families that gives support to thousands of wounded soldiers each year.
Tallouzi travels around the country speaking to schools and organizations about her experience.
For Peggy Miles, principal of PEC, Tallouzi’s tale drives home what service personnel and families sacrifice for the country each day.
Miles arranged for Tallouzi to speak to the student body, working with the school’s social studies teachers beforehand to incorporate the experience into the curriculum.
Miles felt Tallouzi could remind students of the value of the military.
And Tallouzi’s message struck a chord with students.
“This was eye-opening,” said Krystle Ashcroft, whose sister spent nine years in the Navy. “I felt thankful that nothing like that happened to her.”
“Usually when we have a guest speaker, people are fidgeting and bored,” said Mary Nelson, student body president. “Today, we’re late for break and no one asked to go.”
Before his death, Tallouzi spent two years in hospitals around the country working with doctors to get her son better.
She hopes her program reminds citizens of the sacrifice soldiers make for America.
“Less than 1 percent of our nation serves in the military,” she said. “Never in our history have we asked our young people to serve so many tours of duty. Many get deployed seven to nine times.”
With so few serving in the military, it can be easy for citizens to take soldiers for granted, she said.
“We’re losing our American values,” she said, adding it hurts to see young people unaware of the sacrifice soldiers make to protect America.
For Tallouzi, her work is all about broadening horizons. With the numerous questions by students asked at PEC, she felt she had succeeded for the day.