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Columnist
Veterans Day lessons some of the most valuable
By Kerry Lester | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 11/13/200 12:02 AM

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Back when I was still in short pants, my younger brother persuaded our neighbor Augie, a World War II veteran, to come and speak at our school.

We'd read and studied the war in History class, but his tales of fighting in the Pacific left our mouths hanging open, and hands straight up in the air with questions.

Like typical kids, I can remember us asking "Did you shoot anyone?" "What was your gun like?" and of course, "Were you scared?"

I know I had a lot of interesting lessons in grade school, but that one still sticks out in my mind as bringing history to life.

Augie was gentle, but honest with us. We were spellbound. And to some extent, he was too, later bubbling over to his wife and other neighbors about his classroom visit.

Across "Herald City," as we call the paper's coverage area here, similar cross-generational teaching moments took place this week.

My colleague Eric Peterson reported that sixth-graders at St. Hubert Catholic School in Hoffman Estates the students interviewed veterans of World War II and other wars at Friendship Village in Schaumburg - not only for their own benefit but for the video archives of the Library of Congress.

The project was organized by social studies teacher John Reilly, who won a grant for video and computer equipment earlier this year for this very purpose.

Reilly said he was pleased the project resonated as much with the veterans as the students. He heard from Friendship Village's lifestyles activity program coordinator Donna Brown that the vets were still on cloud nine and talking about the project days later.

Harriet Gifford Elementary in Elgin hosted a Tuesday ceremony featuring the American Legion Color Guard, "Fox Valley Veterans" author George Rawlinson, as well as a number of veterans related to students and staff. Those who couldn't attend were honored on a bulletin board in the school's main hallway.

The experience, Principal Joe Corcoran writes, is something new for our students.

"I felt we need to teach students about why we celebrate these days so it's not just a day off school."

These heroes - and lessons - are right in our backyards, and absolutely free. With the number of veterans from World War II and Vietnam dwindling each year, schools should capitalize on such opportunities before it's too late.

Gifford kids head to Washington: Visiting Washington D.C., meeting legislators and touring historic monuments are things every government student should get to see.

But the trip is an expensive one, and money, for many families, is tight. Next Wednesday and Friday, Nov. 18 and 20, Gifford Street High School students will host a flea market to raise money to go to the Capitol for a week over spring break. Social studies teacher and government club moderator Rod Watson says all proceeds will be going toward the trip, which runs about $1,700 per student. Students will have to cover whatever is not raised at the flea market.

During their visit, Watson said, students will meet with politicians, and debate with other students from around the country. Electronics, CDs, DVDs, sports equipment and small pieces furniture will all be for sale in the school's gym, 46 S. Gifford Street.

Hours are 3:30 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday and 3:30 to 7 p.m. on Friday. Donations will also be accepted.