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History project lets students meet with vets

March 19, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Forget the books! Students at Martin Luther King Jr. High School got a live history lesson and came face to face with some real American heroes.About 240 veterans from World War II through Desert Storm were greeted by the high school band Friday morning. Later in the school gymnasium members of the junior class gathered together to learn about the experiences of the veterans.

The project started 10 years ago when teacher Jon Corona assigned students to interview veterans about their experience.

"A lot of kids came back to me and said anybody that they could interview had passed away. So I had to hunt up vets for them and based upon that first day we had 28 vets in about 78 kids or so. It just took off at that point," said Corona.

Veterans from all branches of the military were in attendance, many in uniform, some brought pictures and prepared maps to help the students with their projects.

"I was the skipper of a ship out there and also had 20 river gun boats on the Mekong River up near the Cambodian border in 1970," said retired U.S. Navy commander Kurt Ferguson.

Groups of three students conducted the interviews. Some took videos to add to their reports on the day which will later be graded.

"I thought that it was really interesting how he was just telling us about how on the river there was more drownings then there were actual combat casualties," said student Carl Fitzgerald.

"After Pearl Harbor was attacked it was obvious that everybody that was able was going to have to get involved," John Wasemiller, a retired U.S. Air Force Veteran.

"It's one thing to read about it, and have a teacher lecture to you about it but it's a whole different game to actually sit in front of somebody who was there," said Corona.

Retired Navy Commander Ferguson seemed to echo the sentiments of all the veterans attending the program.

"That's why we're here. That's right and it is a joy," said Ferguson.

At the end the students will present an essay, a DVD, or a power point presentation that will be placed on the internet.