Greencastle-Antrim Middle School students got a lesson in military history in advance of Veterans Day.
Local historian Greg Henesy of Hagerstown unpacked a stage full of World War II gear that he shared with sixth-graders on Friday, as he told the story of veteran Richard “Red” Falvey of Younkers, New York, who was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division
Falvey, who passed away in 2012, was a paratrooper who made his first combat jump into Normandy on D-Day; fought in the Battle of the Bulge; and ended the war in the home of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.
Falvey, Henesy said, would have carried about 130 pounds worth of gear.
"He was 5 feet, 6 and weighed about 145 pounds and he was his company's supply line," Henesy explained. "We're here to talk about history, not math, but that's a lot of weight."
Henesy passed around a variety of items for the students assembled in the cafeteria to touch and examine. One of the items was an ammo bag, that the first student nearly dropped because it was heavier than it looked.
"It's only about 25 pounds," Henesy said. "Ladies, get used to it because that's what your purse will weigh in high school."
The room erupted into giggles at that remark.
But making a war that happened so many years ago relevant and relatable to the middle school students requires humor and a creative approach.
"We are always looking for new and creative ways to reach kids," explained G-AMS Principal Mark Herman. "It's hard to connect with 735 people at one time on a deep, meaningful level, so we broke it down into grade levels. By doing so, it's more personalized."
Henesy's talk was just one of a week-long string of events that offered students insight into the lives of veterans. Other programs included a talk by local historian John Heckman, archivist and professional historical interpreter specializing in WWI; and Chad Basore, a veteran and dog trainer at Maryland Correctional Facility who helps veterans obtain service dogs.
"Every year we do special Veterans Day educational activities. This year in particular, with Veterans Day on a weekend, we lost the opportunity on the day to do special things, but we didn't want that to escape us. We wanted to speak to kids' hearts and minds about veterans about all they have done and continue to do in service to our country," Herman said. "We want to help them appreciate all they enjoy in our country because it wouldn't be what it is today if it wasn't for the sacrifice of our veterans. We can't take that for granted.
"The storytelling and pictures helps the students personally connect and, hopefully, bridge the heart to the head and get them thinking about who they want to be and who the heroes are."
Contact Andrea Rose at email@example.com or 717-762-2151 or on Twitter @AndreaCiccociop.