Sophomore Andrew Valle, who asked the question that started the conversation about mental health, said he’d never heard James story before.
"I feel like his response was an eye opener to the problems that we have,” Valle said. "It's a typical topic that we keep hidden from everybody else.”
For other students, the class connects them to their family history.
"My grandpa never really liked talking about Vietnam, and I really wanted to learn about Vietnam,” said sophomore Devin Daugherty. "Vietnam was not a place that was good for him."
After taking this class, he feels like he has a better understanding of his grandfather’s service.
Daugherty himself aspires to serve in the military.
"I want to go overseas, and I want to come back knowing I did something for my country,” Daugherty said.
James developed the curriculum for the military history class from scratch. The semester-long elective spans from the French and Indian War of the 1700s to the War on Terror.
“I think in too many history textbooks, individuals of color and women are really left out of history, and I think in this class it’s really good that the kids get to see that there were other people that contributed to war,” James said.
Posters hung outside his room depict women spies, including Nancy Morgan Hart, who helped win the Revolutionary War.
One of the students’ final projects is an essay based on an interview with a veteran.
The assignment is inspired by James’ own history.
An assignment his senior year of school at Tempe High School that opened the door to a conversation with his grandfather about his service in the Royal Air Force during World War II.
“I want them to kinda gain a better understanding of what other individuals had to sacrifice, both men and women for this country," James said.