Brendan Gallagher, a Biomedical Sciences teacher at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center, was one of eighteen teachers nationwide selected to participate in the National History Day and American Battle Monuments Commission’s Understanding Sacrifice program.
As part of the project, a new, free digital resource for teachers,, was unveiled at the National Council for the Social Studies Conference held in New Orleans in November. This website includes 21 lesson plans created by American teachers who took the trip of a lifetime this summer to discover the stories of World War II fallen heroes buried and memorialized overseas as part of the Understanding Sacrifice education program.
Gallagher created a multi-disciplinary lesson plan for social studies, English, and science classrooms after studying the sacrifice of U.S. Army Pfc. James H. Vrtatko of Chicago, Illinois. Gallagher’s lesson, Advancement of Medical Technology during World War II, highlights the medical advancements made during the war. Students act as medics and are faced with common injuries and illnesses. Students then have to decide which treatment available at the time would be best suited for the given injury.
According to Gallagher, “Placing the students in the shoes of a medic allows them to be actively engaged in both scientific and historical inquiry and makes for an authentic learning experience.” Gallagher’s lesson plan is hosted on along with those of the 17 other teachers who participated in Understanding Sacrifice.
To see Gallagher’s fallen hero profile of Private First Class Vrtatko, visit:
Teachers selected local American service members who lost their lives in northern Europe. Through months of intense study and in-depth research, the teachers uncovered the story of their fallen hero while developing a broader understanding of the campaigns and battles in which they fought. The group then traveled through northern Europe, from the United Kingdom to France to the Netherlands and Belgium to visit America’s overseas cemeteries and to walk the battlegrounds where these men gave their lives.
Each lesson plan is based on solid scholarship, integrated with Common Core, and makes use of interpretive materials provided by ABMC. They are accompanied by research about fallen heroes of World War II who are honored at ABMC cemeteries in northern Europe.


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