A group of Roncalli students have found a way to connect with history by writing to World War II veterans and learning from their responses.
The veterans told the high school students about the war and their impressions of the National World War II Memorial in Washington.
Students and their teacher saw the letter-writing project as a way to connect to that part of American history, especially since the youngest World War II veterans are in their late 80s.
“This is something they won’t be able to do in a decade,” U.S. history teacher Kevin Banich said.
Kaleigh Woolsey of Greenwood spearheaded the effort to get the letters written through her U.S. history class.
She and her aunt had helped with an Indianapolis honor flight, which takes veterans to Washington for a day. The junior heard that veterans get bundles of letters after they return from the flight. She decided she wanted to help, she said.
Some World War II veterans who go on the flight don’t have friends of family who want to write them, she said. She wanted to fill that void.
“I get satisfaction in knowing that we are doing this,” Woolsey said. “It makes me extremely happy.”
She took her idea to Banich, who at the beginning of the school year told students if they wanted to do something history-related in the classroom, he would tailor their lessons to the project.
World War II was a topic all the kids were getting excited to learn about, he said.
“Even though we weren’t studying World War II, we tied it to sacrifice,” Banich said. “It is something they can actually be a part of.”
Each of the 24 students wrote multiple letters. Some drew pictures and colored the handwriting on their letters. Most thanked the veterans for their service and told them they were praying that they had a good trip.
Three responses have been received so far, Banich said. They thanked the students for their letters and told them a little about the war.
Students were in awe when a woman veteran wrote back. She had served in the Army Air Forces during the war and told them she enjoyed the honor trip.
The teenagers didn’t know women that age could be veterans, too, Banich said.
“The girls thought that was the coolest thing,” he said.
Even before the letter writing began, students picked World War II as one of the topics they would like to learn about, Banich said. Students don’t really learn about that period of history before high school. Movies and pop culture from the Holocaust have always intrigued students, he said.
The letters brought history alive.
“That history is around so much, but they haven’t really been taught that,” he said. “Sometimes history gets so caught up in textbooks.”