First In Math Helps Retired Army Veteran and Family Look to the Future

First In Math Helps Retired Army Veteran
And Family Look to the Future

RIALTO, CA—At First In Math we receive letters, emails and phone calls every day. Some contain constructive criticism, some contain praise, and some touch our hearts in remarkable ways. One such email was forwarded to us by Eva Serrato, Academic Agent, Math/Science and College & Career Pathways for the Rialto Unified School District.


Sgt. H. and his wife. “I always get the credit for my service, but she watches over me in ways no one else would and really makes it all happen.”

In a communication to Dr. Monte Stewart, Principal of Elizabeth T. Hughbanks Elementary in Rialto, a happy parent shared that he was very excited his son received a First In Math Online program User ID and Password. “Thank you soooooooooooooo much for Michael’s account,” wrote US Army Sgt. H. “I'm ecstatic, as this program has given me a purpose since being home with my children.”

Days earlier, Serrato had asked local First In Math representative, Jill Henderson, to help her enroll just one more Kindergarten student in FIM. “Jill took care of it immediately,” says Serrato. “I didn’t know how important that request was until I read the Sgt.’s email.”

Sgt. H., who always wanted to be an engineer, joined the Army National Guard in 2000 as an Infantryman and was activated to Kuwait after the 9/11 attack. He did three combat tours in Iraq, but in 2006 was severely injured when his vehicle was hit by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device).

He awoke in a Baghdad ER with little to no memory of the attack or the days leading up to it. Severe injuries left his memory extremely compromised and his high-level math skills nearly extinct. The combat veteran, who used to deal with calculus and trigonometry, was left barely able to do multiplication.  “I didn’t arrive home the same. PTSD, TBI, chronic pain, you name it, I had/have it. I fight each day to overcome these obstacles.”

In 2017, he was medically retired, having served nearly 17 years. “A that point I was doing all I could to hang on to what I knew,” explains Sgt. H. “I went from being a frontline, hardened, combat-infantry soldier to learning how to be a full-time, stay-at-home dad on a fixed income. And I thought combat was tough!”

He didn’t leave the house very often, but one day his wife convinced him to attend a school award presentation “Some kids got a First In Math Award and they were talking about ‘stickers’ and things I didn't understand. I thought, what is this program every teacher is praising? So, I got on First In Math and went through every game I could, learning everything I could about it when, like an explosion—pun intended—it hit me! I remembered I used to be able to do high levels of math.”

“I realized that it's the basics that matter, the foundation that counts, so from that point on my son Joshua and I did all we could to challenge ourselves on First In Math. I know that life is a process full of growth potential and littered with constant failures, and it will take hard work and effort to overcome those failures. But we were determined to have fun, enjoy the program, and most important appreciate our precious time here on earth together.”

“I'm still unable to recall and hold onto many things, but through much practice, effort, hard work and time—and the support of my beautiful wife and mother of our six children—I'm grateful just for the opportunity to remember any little things and be in the present with my family.”

A few months later at the next awards presentation, Joshua was awarded a FIM plaque for being #1 in the Rialto Unified School District among all grades! He was also ranked #1 in the State and #7 in the Nation at his grade level. “This year, he’s currently #1 in CA among third graders,” says the proud father, noting that Hughbanks recently promoted him to fourth-grade math.

Sgt. H. explains that the letter he wrote to Dr. Stewart was about Joshua’s younger brother, Michael, who is now five, and loving First In Math. “He’s doing addition and subtraction easily and going strong because of the inspiration and hard work of his brother, I am so proud of him.” But this dedicated dad says that it wasn't until he saw his kids using First In Math that it inspired him to get back on the horse and relearn math.

“First In Math gave me a platform to work with. I tried flash cards, other programs, everything and just lost hope because nothing worked. FIM was the direction and guide I needed to help me teach and guide my children. It is great therapy for me daily watching my children excel in the knowledge I lost years ago.”

 “Sgt. H.’s story is so inspiring, and I applaud his incredible courage,” says Dr. Stewart. “As educators, we may not always realize how one small action we take—or curriculum support we offer—can impact the lives of others. Hearing something like this only strengthens my commitment to the school and to every student, one child at a time.”  


Editor’s note: In the interest of privacy, we have been asked to substitute “Sgt. H.” in place of an actual name, and we deeply respect Sgt. H.’s desire to dedicate this piece “to my fallen brother and sisters, to those still faithfully serving and who have served—both in military and public safety—I wake up every day thanks to them.”


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