War and Remembrance program sparks connections between generations
WEST MILFORD — “What’s a C-Ration?” asked a tentative freshman at West Milford High School, as Korean War vets shared their wartime experiences. Ed Olearo, in describing the foods included in the “C-Ration,” explained that he lost 20 pounds during his time in service. The students additionally enjoyed Olearo’s description of the “girl back home,” with whom he shared his 62nd wedding anniversary recently.
These questions, and the connections forged between students and veterans, came during West Milford’s second annual hosting of a program entitled “War and Remembrance” in June. First sponsored by high school teacher Jennifer Metcalf, the History Department has forged ahead, providing growing audiences for local vets. Teacher Bruce Bialkin remarked that the camaraderie between Iraq War veteran Donald Fantasia and Vietnam War vet Bill Johnson was palpable in the room. Similarly, US II teacher Mandy Mock’s students were fascinated by Vietnam veteran Pat Loughman who carried his helmet and other artifacts into classrooms.
In one poignant moment, after Olearo had shared stories of his bond with a young Korean soldier, freshman Matthew Heusser connected with Olearo, explaining that his grandfather, who recently died, had earned a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam. Unexpected relationships were forged throughout the day, as students and staff stopped to shake hands with veterans Glenn Wenzel, Ed Nolan, and Fred Gould.
The day culminated with a POW-MIA ceremony hosted by Vietnam veteran Gould, saluted by the West Milford High School band’s performance of “Amazing Grace” with the signature bag pipers. Local veterans who wish to participate next June should contact Metcalf at firstname.lastname@example.org, or go through the local American Legion or VFW organizations.
- Jennifer Metcalf
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