Stories were told that seemed as though they came straight out of a novel at Minarets High School's second annual Veteran's Day Dinner celebration last week. There were veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, The Cuban Blockade, The Hydrogen Bomb test, Iraq, and Afghanistan -- all coming together to share their stories as Minarets students recorded them, making sure their stories live on into the future.
Daniel Ching, U.S. and World History teacher who spearheads the event, said the event was a "huge success" and said this year there were some new additions to the celebration.
Interviews were held all day on campus instead of only in the evening. Students also got to see military equipment first hand. An Army Jeep and a Vietnam/Gulf era M113 personnel carrier were on campus and then got a very special visitor -- a blackhawk helicopter. The helicopter was flown in from Fresno with Ltc. Dave Hall on board.
Some local veterans that stopped by to share their stories were Bud and Lynn Russel, James Sheppard, Ken Offenback, and Bill Bastian.
"We are so excited for our continued relationship with our veterans," Ching said. "We are honored to call them friends."
There were about 43 veterans at the dinner and were served by sophomores from Honors World History Class. Sophomores Grant Hall and Ealish Ellis were student speakers for the event and spoke about what it means to have veterans come and spend time with them, adding why they think it is important to learn from our veterans and what their service means to them.
Navy Commander Steve Hall and Army Ltc. Dave Hall spoke to the guests about service to community and country as well as "bridging the gap" between generations.
"The evening brought people from different eras and life-styles together successfully with a love for their country to unite them," Ching said.
The school came together to make sure the event was a success. Patrick Wilson and Jon Corippo's media students did filming at the event, Bill Samuelson's music department providing patriotic songs, Kristi Mattes' Floral Department made center pieces, Chelsea Milliron's leadership class did decorating, and Therese Righter's key club helped with cleanup. Chawanakee's new Culinary Arts Institute, under the leadership of Chef Cory Faysal, prepared desserts for the event.
Students Haley Honeycutt, Megan Hilliard, and Dylan Ashcraft are creating highlight videos from the event. All interviews will be available in raw cut on the Minarets Veterans youtube channel.
Ashcraft said he liked the opportunity the event offered to extend his cinematography experience and learn history firsthand.
"Many of them gave details that I'm sure aren't recorded in the books and, more importantly, their own views on the events that changed the world to be as we know it today," Ashcraft said. "Many, such as Mike Magee or Bud Mars, had intriguing stories of their service during WWII, Cold War, Vietnam War, and other major American conflicts."
Last year both Honeycutt and Hilliard won awards for their videos. Hilliard, a junior, said winning gave her an even bigger drive to do well on her documentary this year. She said the project is important to her because she's preserving stories unique to each veteran. She's especially interested in recording stories from WWII.
"Their generation is almost gone, and soon we won't have this opportunity talk face to face with these people," Hilliard said. "I think the main focus of the whole project is to not only educate our generation about why we have veterans day, but also to make it more tangible for the high schoolers who are learning about wars like WWII, Vietnam, and Korea. Sometimes it's hard to imagine everyday life as a soldier in those wars, and the veterans help bridge that gap between the textbook and real life."
One story especially brought the dark, heart-wrenching side of war alive to Hilliard -- a story she won't soon forget. It was told to her by a veteran who had seen a lot of loss and a party he through for a comrade coming home. However, that comrade, and friend, never showed up to his welcome home party.
"Have you ever been to a party where the guest of honor wasn't there?," the veteran asked Hilliard.
"He said he never saw his friend again because he was killed in action," Hilliard said. "It's just so hard to comprehend that sort of thing happening to me."
Ching said the Minarets History Department will continue projects involving veterans and students working together toward the common goal of understanding our past. Ching also said efforts are in motion on raising funds to build a memorial on campus in honor of local veterans. www.youtube.com/user/MinaretsVeterans?feature=g-all-u