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Soldiers' stories will provide true education on Veterans Day

November 10, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

GREENCASTLE, PA.

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

Three living veterans and one whose frozen body was found in a California glacier last month 63 years after his plane went down will help to impress upon Greencastle-Antrim High School students the importance of remembering those who fought and died in the nation's wars.

Friday is Veterans Day and instead of getting the day off, all Greencastle-Antrim High School students will go to class to learn what the holiday really means.

"These kids really don't connect with who veterans are and the contributions they made," said P. Duff Rearick, the district's superintendent.

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Until this year, Veterans Day traditionally has been a school holiday in the district.

"It's better for them to be in school Friday learning about Veterans Day than hanging out in the mall," Rearick said.

"Many students are disconnected from what Martin Luther King did, too. Diversity is one of the issues we deal with every day in the schools.

"There isn't a lot of diversity in this school district yet so the students need to know what King stood for and the meaning of his 'I Have a Dream' speech," Rearick said. "We're going to have school on his birthday, too."

Teachers in the high school have been developing programs and special lesson plans for Friday based on Veterans Day themes.

Students in Ellen Kirkner's civics class are dressing for the day in red, white and blue.

They'll hear Trevor Kimmel of Waynesboro, Pa., who graduated from Greencastle-Antrim High School in June 2003. He enlisted in the Marines two months later and in June 2004 was sent to Iraq. Kimmel is a veteran of the fierce fighting in Fallujah. He came home in January and has two years to go in his current commitment.

Kirkner was his high school civics teacher.

"I want to tell them (the students) what it means to be a veteran and why it's important to respect them," Kimmel said. He said he will avoid details on the actual fighting he's seen because of the students' ages. "It's nothing like the movies," he said.

"It's important that they understand what Veterans Day is about. I don't think they really understand that," Kimmel said.

Students in Joseph Zoeller's history class will walk to the veterans memorial in front of the Greencastle Borough Hall Friday to participate in a Veterans Day ceremony at 11 a.m. The ceremony will feature a Veterans of Foreign Wars honor guard and remarks by local officials, including Greencastle Mayor Robert "Red" Pensinger and state Rep. Patrick Fleagle, R-Franklin, among others.

Zoeller's class also will hear the experiences of a World War II Army veteran who fought in the Pacific.

Martina Fegan's English class will hear from Verne Baker of Chambersburg, Pa. He was in the Army in Europe in 1945 and was one of the first American GIs to enter Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp.

Fegan teaches a course on genocide in the 20th and 21st centuries.

"The holocaust is a big component of the course," she said.

Baker will talk about what he saw in the death camp, Fegan said.

Eleventh-grade teachers Marci Stover and Brandon Solomon are teaching a unit on World War I literature. Stover and Solomon will dress as Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam, in keeping with the theme.

The students will read and analyze literature and poetry from the era. Students in Melissa Butz's 10th-grade English class will write a poem with a connection to Veterans Day.

Students in Robert Henry's science class are going to learn how a World War II airman, who parachuted out of his plane before it crashed, landed in a snow-covered mountain in Kings Canyon National Park in California in 1942.

Last month, some hikers came across his frozen body with only his head, shoulder and arm sticking out of the snow, according to The Associated Press.

The airman, a cadet, was one of four men in the plane when it went down. His body is the only one found so far.

The body, preserved by the ice through the decades, was taken to Hickam Field in Hawaii where forensic anthropologists will try to identify it.

Henry said he plans to ask his science class students if the airman's body can be identified and the cause of his death determined through DNA and whether he died on impact or from hypothermia.

Henry said some students probably will ask why the airman "couldn't just be identified through his dog tags."

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