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Vets return, remember their wartime exploits

Historical reenactments are popular among history buffs.

But most would agree: living history is the most engaging way to learn. That’s just part of the reason Glencoe High School students welcome veterans to their school for a day each year.

Glencoe’s 13th Veterans Remembrance Day on April 26 drew more than 50 vets — some combat vets, some not — from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom to talk with students about their experiences.by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - World War II veteran Robert Seiler talks about the medals he won during his military service.

The veterans brought with them medals, uniforms, photos and other memorabilia from their years in the service. They also brought with them the tales of many, many years of experience.

Their audience was small groups of social studies students who listened intently as the vets told their stories, each offering a unique perspective of their experience in serving in the armed forces.

Golda Fabian served in World War II as a U.S. Marine, one of the few women who served in that branch at time. She was joined by at least five other World War II vets on Remembrance Day.

U.S. Marine combat vet Bill Buckner shared some of his experiences in Vietnam.

“Have I ever killed someone? Yes,” he told a handful of students engrossed in his story. “It’s something you never forget. There’s not one combat vet here that comes back without major, major changes in his life.”

Jeff Meeuwsen, dean of students at Glencoe, organized this year’s event.

“It’s great for the kids to feel that sense of community,” Meeuwsen said. “They really relish the opportunity.”

Meeuwsen had more than 70 students volunteer to be guides for the day.

Peggy Ploem offered another perspective on war. She was a civilian prisoner of war during World War II on Japanese-occupied Java, in what was then called the Dutch East Indies. She told of laboring to build a dam from boulders, of eating her twice-daily rations of dirty water, a soft starch “mush,” and slugs.

“They tasted like liver,” she told the students.

Ploem was 12. She lost half her body weight as a POW, but she, her mother and her sister survived the ordeal.

“We survived against all odds,” she said.

Meeuwsen said Glencoe was one of the first local schools to hold a day to honor and learn from vets.

“I have a lot of Vietnam vets, especially, tell me how much they appreciate it,” Meeuwsen noted.

“Glencoe loves this day,” he told veterans as they arrived for a day of festivities, which included an all-school assembly complete with patriotic music and three standing ovations from students thanking vets for their service to the country. “We look forward to it every year.”



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