Veterans Day Experience

by Andy Chrvala contributing reporter

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It’s not every day we think about all of the things the veterans of this country have done for us. And it’s not every day that we get to hear firsthand what they experienced in their service of this country. On Friday, November 8, around 30 students from the eighth grade chaperoned by Ms. DeSimone, the GATE Teacher, and Mr. Smith, the Eighth Grade Civics Teacher, sponsored a trip to the Veterans Day Experience. Prior to the event all of the students who wished to go on the trip were tasked with coming up with questions for the veterans as well as writing a paragraph about why they think Veteran’s Day is a very important holiday.
Students spent their day at the Heinz History Center where they got a quick introduction to the veterans whose names were Mr. Walter Patton, a World War II Veteran, Mr. Gilbert Anderson, a Korean War Veteran, Mr. Jack Sheehan, and Mr. Lawrence Woods, both Vietnam War Veterans.
Following the brief introduction students were divided into two groups and each group was given a veteran as their tour guide as they went into the History Center’s brand new exhibit called “Pennsylvania’s Civil War”.
After the tours through the museum, the students went upstairs to hear the veterans’ stories, see artifacts they had brought in, and ask questions about their tenure in the military.
Mr. Patton spoke about his job in the former Army Air Corps (now commonly known as the Air Force) and gave detailed summaries of military terms not familiar to students.
Mr. Anderson told about his experience of managing a trade with some Australian Soldiers deployed in Korea. He also showed detailed topographical maps of Korea.
Lastly Mr. Sheehan and Mr. Wood shared their experiences in Vietnam. Mr. Wood told the story of how his unit of Air MPs (Military Police) had to hunt down thirty Viet Cong (Communist Vietnamese insurgents) saboteurs in the middle of the night in order to save the aircraft where he was stationed. Mr. Sheehan spoke about his helmet and how it could serve as a bathtub, a coffeepot, a soup bowl, and pretty much anything else.  He also talked about the many different jobs he performed in the military from testing fire extinguishers to repairs to an AMTRAC vehicle.
During this time the students were able to casually speak with the veterans over lunch. I went on the trip as well and I got to ask Mr. Sheehan as to what he thought about this field trip and he said that “It’s a great opportunity for all you guys and I’m glad I got to talk to you about my experiences in the service. I really wish other schools would do this because it is important for people to realize veterans are people just like you and me, we just have cooler stories to tell.”
One Eighth Grader said about the event “I thought it was really cool to talk to the veterans on like a personal one to one scale” “They were all so nice and glad we were there” said another.
The trip to the Heinz History Center to meet the Veterans was a worthwhile field trip and is highly recommended for students in the 6th and 7th grades.

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