9/11 pushed Virginia teacher into service: 'I'm old. I'm married. I've got kids. But I'm ready'

Posted at 6:48 AM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-08 10:28:03-04

LOUISA COUNTY, Va. -- Maj. Tom Bourne’s students weren’t even born when the 9/11 attacks happened, but he remembers it like it was yesterday.

“I was in my classroom, construction, teaching in the old high school," Bourne said. “We have the radio going and they announced that the World Trade Center had just been hit by a plane."

Just a few weeks later, a military recruiter was on the campus.

"I said, ‘Look. I'm old. I'm married. I've got kids. But I'm ready," he recalled.

At 32 years old, Bourne joined the United States Army.

“I lost 40 pounds before basic training. I lost 40 pounds in basic training. And I swore in on Dec. 15, 2001," he said.

The U.S. Army reservist has taught at Louisa High School for the past 23 years. He's also been a member of the competitive marksmanship program, competing around the globe. But his passion is teaching kids.

"When the light bulb goes on. When you talk to a student and they're not getting it. And you just keep on with them. And suddenly, it just clicks," he said.

His love of country and the military also inspired him to start the school's Armed Services Club.

"Presenting colors at football games or shooting off the cannon every time we score. Doing the parade or the Veterans Day ceremonies or placing flags on the cemetery on Veterans Day or Memorial Day," he said.

Twenty years ago, something tragic inspired him to serve his country. Today, he's hoping to inspire his students to find ways to serve their community, country, and each other in whatever way they choose.

Building a sense of service is Building Better Minds.

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