Students at McDowell High School are getting in-depth lessons about the Vietnam War from North Carolina veterans who fought on the front lines.
Dozens of students spent a recent day interviewing numerous Vietnam War veterans from the community who served in different military units during the two decade long conflict that ended more than 40 years ago, WLOS reports.
“Vietnam is not a good place for me,” Frank, a veteran, told students. “I had an opportunity to go back and would not go back.”
The discussions were part of a broader school project to document the living history in the community, and students recorded their conversations with veterans, who brought in pictures, uniforms, and other memorabilia from their tours of duty.
Students learned how the war impacted soldiers, as well as how they were treated by their countrymen once they arrived home.
“We got eggs threw at us when we came back home. We were shunned by people in society, and we just came back and went back to work and never said anything about it for 40 years,” local combat vet Randy Hollifield said. “That’s the way we were. We never said anything.”
The lesson also included a walk to a veteran’s memorial at McDowell Senior Center, where students reflected on the sacrifices veterans made for their freedoms. Afterwards, students enjoyed lunch with veterans to share their thanks. Veterans also expressed gratitude students have an interest in a time in U.S. history that profoundly shaped their lives.
An ongoing controversy surrounding moral education is its potential threatens other academic subjects. Here the two efforts are combined effectively where the study of living history connects to the cost of personal sacrifice. Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture note “Moral thickness and thinness take form in several dimensions. The most prominent examples of ‘thickness’ drew upon sacred texts, traditions, and exemplars as their sources of moral authority and imagination” (The Content of Their Character, p. 279). Here living history connects personally with the students and their moral imagination.
Student Hayden Vaughn told WLOS the experience was eye-opening.
“Right now I’m stressing out about colleges for me to pick. I can’t even imagine knowing that I’m not going to go to college, I’m going to be sent off to war as soon as I graduate from high school,” he said. “I can’t imagine what that would feel like.”
Teachers and principals who want to emphasize the power of role models to help their students acquire strengthened moral and character formation can find learning activities and information at the UK’s The Jubilee Centre. The learning activities can be found here.