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War stories

World War II vets share experiences with local students

Created date

August 3rd, 2009
When asked what the Highland Springs World War II Club does, member Melvin Waters says wryly, Aaah, we don t do a whole lot. We are just a bunch of old codgers who sit around and tell stories you know, the stories our families are sick of hearing over and over again. But Waters modest (and humorous) response is a bit misleading when it comes to the group s value to the local community. They are a great group, Community Resources Coordinator Barbara Blachly says of the offshoot of the much larger veterans club at Highland Springs. These are brave people that risked everything to serve the greater good. On campus, they are a social group, but they also reach out to the local community and are helping to educate future generations about what really happened during World War II. Layers of community At Highland Springs the 62-plus community in Dallas the group provides an opportunity for World War II veterans who live there to catch up over lunch, share stories, and listen to other World War II speakers. But a few group members realized their stories may be valuable to a younger audience too. There aren t too many of us left, says Bill Harper, a member of the group and a decorated U.S. Army veteran. We are a rare breed, so it s nice to meet and connect with others who have that same shared experience and have a story to tell. Then, we just figured it might not be a bad idea for the next generation to hear and learn about some of these things. So some members of the club, including Waters and Harper, partnered with a local private school and have spent time speaking with fourth-grade history students. It was a perfect fit, Waters says about the arrangement with the Covenant School. You had a school that was teaching children about the war and wanted to hear some real stories, some real experiences, and we had a bunch of stories to tell. It was a match made in heaven. Eyewitness accounts Waters, who was enlisted in the British Army and served with American forces, says, These students are learning about World War II, so we just give them a bit of our story, from our perspective, from enlistment through discharge. The biggest lesson Waters tries to convey? I had a huge respect for the Americans and what they were doing. We were integrated with them working hand in hand. But I felt like we couldn t do enough to salute them, he says. We worked with the Americans in Italy so I have a high respect for them, seeing all that they did over there. It is extremely helpful for these veterans to share their stories with us, says Marsha Page, Covenant School fourth-grade teacher. It makes an impression on our students to hear firsthand experiences and see the dedication and commitment these men have to our country, our freedom, and our liberties. Setting the standard Harper, who joined the U.S. Army in 1939, says he thinks all veterans should share their stories, even if they feel they played an insignificant role. It s the many stories put together that are important, he explains. All the stories together paint the full picture. Page adds, These men helped put a face to what we are learning. [The students] see that these are real people who sacrificed for our country. It sets quite a standard. Harper says he particularly appreciated the handwritten thank-you notes the class prepared for him. It was such a pleasure to meet and talk with these young people, he says. They are so open and receptive to learn. And you could tell by their notes that they internalized the subject. When asked what lesson the students took away from the talks, he says, I think they truly understand that the freedom they have wasn t, and isn t, free. And that s significant.