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Learning about this area's veterans and their history

November 11, 2005

At a time when American soldiers are dying on an almost daily basis in Iraq, the Greencastle-Antrim School District in nearby Pennsylvania has decided that students shouldn't have a holiday on Veterans Day.

Instead, students will attend classes where they will learn the true meaning of Veterans Day. We applaud the move and recommend that every system in the region follow this district's lead.

P. Duff Rearick, the district's superintendent, said the change was made because many students were unaware of who veterans are and of the contributions they have made.

It would be better, he said, to spend the time learning those lessons about veterans' contributions than to waste the day "hanging out at the mall."

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Today's programs include an appearance by Trevor Kimmel of Waynesboro, Pa., a member of Greencastle-Antrim High School's class of 2003. Kimmel enlisted in the Marines, was sent to Iraq and participated in fierce fighting in Fallujah.

Other classes will hear from veterans of World War II and study the times during which American soldiers were engaged in different wars.

Washington County has its own veterans with a history that should not be forgotten.

In April of 2004, Kevin Moriarty, director of the Washington County Arts Council, shared with readers the story of Morris Frock, the first Washington County soldier killed in World War I.

With the help of the staff of the Washington County Free Library, Moriarty found that Frock died in 1918, after he had been overseas for a year.

According to a story in the Hagerstown Mail on June 26, 1918, Frock was killed by artillery while acting as a courier between his commanding officer and the rest of the battalion. For that heroism, Moriarty discovered that Frock had been posthumously awarded the French military medal, the Croix de Guerre.

Some other Washington County veterans who should not be forgotten are Capt. Leroy "Bud" Weddle and the men of Hagerstown's Company B of the 115th Infantry, 29th Division.

Weddle and his men were part of the American force that landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. Company B was also one of the first groups to try to take the French city of St. Lo from the Germans.

The fighting for that town was described in a 2000 article by the Rev. John Schildt, a local pastor and historian.

Allied troops had been expected to take the town in six days, but Schildt said they had not bargained for the ancient network of hedgerows in the farm fields. The fight took six weeks and Weddle was wounded and nearly lost an arm.

Schildt noted that in the museum at St. Lo there are photos of Capt. Weddle, who returned home to work at the Hagerstown Post Office, and a Washington County flag.

Shouldn't local students know Company B's story as well as students in a French town an ocean away? We say yes.

We know that changing the school calendar is not something that is done lightly or easily.

But at the very least, to honor the sacrifices U.S. veterans have made, one day of class time each year should be devoted to learning about all that they did that benefits today's American population.

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