Visit with a vet

HUMBOLDT – The stories of veterans were presented live at the “Sit with a Soldier, Visit with a Vet” event Sunday afternoon at Zion Lutheran Church in Humboldt.

The celebration brought together Humboldt High School students and veterans from all eras and all branches of service.

Twenty-four ninth-grade students interviewed veterans one-on-one and wrote up the interviews. Three different readers then presented these stories to the audience at the church.

Veterans ranged from World War II to Afghanistan and Iraq, from all branches of service. Some had been drafted, while others enlisted. Some never saw active combat, while others flew planes through a war zone.

All veterans were asked the same questions, and audience members could hear great variety in the answers.

Duke Edge, a World War II Air Force veteran, said that boot camp was not bad, but took a lot of running and walking.

Craig Malloy was only 18 years old when he enlisted in the Navy during the Vietnam War. He said his first days were a culture shock; to him, boot camp felt like he was in jail because he lost all his freedom.

Lawrence Davis was sent to Korea with the Army from 1946-1947, just after the end of World War II. He never saw live combat, but he remembered many soldiers who had been in Korea for a long time asking and hoping that replacements would soon be coming to replace them, as they saw a high number of casualties.

When interviewed, he told the students how other soldiers had had it much harder.

“I told them, ‘I’m a veteran, but I’m not a hero.’ The war was over with, when I got over there in ’46,” Davis said.

Matthew Berry served with the Marines in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and said his base was mortared almost daily.

Some veterans said the food was passable in the service, while a few said they actually got good food.

Daryl Long said the food was so revolting that he lost weight because he often only ate one meal a day. He decided to enlist during the Korean War, and picked the Army over the other branches because that was the first door he saw.

The students who did the interviews came from Doug Van Pelt’s United States history class, but they were all volunteers, Van Pelt said. This wasn’t an assignment. They scheduled times after school to meet with the veterans.

“It gives them first-hand knowledge of what our veterans did for us,” Van Pelt said. “The value beyond school is off the charts for them, and they get to help portray the stories of veterans to the community.”

Van Pelt said the whole point was to honor the veterans, though. The learning experience was an added bonus.

This was the first time Van Pelt has been part of the event. Event coordinator Pam Davis said she did an event like this two years ago, but then the veterans spoke directly to the audience.

“We decided to change the format to just one-on-one with a high school history student. And it was pretty well-received with the kids and the adults as well,” Davis said.

“We try to keep history alive instead of just in a book,” she said. “It’s much more fun to listen to somebody than it is just to read. Then you can have the history right in front of you.”

A freewill offering was accepted, and “Service Bears” were sold to support the Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight Committee for future honor flights to Washington D.C.