EDUCATION

Greencastle-Antrim youth pay tribute to WWII generation

PAT FRIDGEN
Patti Kotrady and her father Anthony visit with Richard Walck, who shared a display of World War II memorabilia. It drew many visitors before and after the program on veterans and Holocaust survivors.

The glorious and the brave of World War II were honored in a unique program May 1, with teenagers recognizing the contributions of what they agreed was 'The Greatest Generation'. A film and a book created by Greencastle-Antrim High School students of Martina Fegan were shared with a large crowd, followed by an autograph session with the featured guests.

Soldiers and Holocaust survivors had been interviewed by students last year, with their stories intertwined into a historical documentary. The subjects were: Vern Baker, Chambersburg, Pvt. First Class, U.S. Army; William Benson, Greencastle, Second Petty Officer, U.S. Navy; Richard Gingrich, Greencastle, Lt. Commander, U.S. Navy; Richard Hamsher, Chambersburg, Captain, U.S. Army; Paul Kriner, Chambersburg, Sgt. Technician, U.S. Army; and Holocaust survivors Sylvia Galman Bonebrake, State Line; Ellie Hagenaar Chapman and Egon Gartenberg, Chambersburg (represented by his family).

Gingrich was at college listening to the New York Philharmonic concert on the radio on Dec. 7, 1941. As news of Pearl Harbor spread, he said, "Fellows immediately began to talk about which branch of service they'd go in."

Kriner was 24 when he enlisted. "When Hitler marched into Poland (in 1939) I was concerned. I knew there was something bigger going on."

Baker signed up at 18. He was certain Americans knew what was occurring in Germany but chose to ignore it. He was among the troops to liberate Dachau concentration camp in 1945. They encountered the prisoners in waves, each group worse off than the next. "The first cheered you on," he recounted. "The next ones were feeble. Finally they were skin and bones. We were afraid to hug them, thinking we would break them."

Benson was only 17 when he and eight friends joined the military. He was the only one to make it home, a fact that still brought tears to his eyes. He was scared when his ship was getting attacked by kamikaze pilots in the Pacific Islands. "A chief petty officer sutck a cigar in my mouth to calm me down," he recalled. "I've been smoking ever since."

Hamsher remembered the reality of war. "You can see a machine gun firing. It looks like dust, but it'll kill you."

As the men did their part to fight the Nazis, the women had already been through traumatic childhoods. Bonebrake was a Jew of Russian ancestry living in London. "The bombs fell night after night. You learned to live with it."

Chapman lived in Amsterdam. Her father was taken away, and died at Auschwitz. The family learned that the infamous Dr. Joseph Mengele had injected him with butane. Other family members and friends disappeared one by one. "You stand there and you cry," she said.

Bonebrake moved to the states as a GI bride, and formulated a philosophy for life. "It's easier to love than to hate."

Contributions

G-AHS students played a key role in the project. The veterans were interviewed by Patti Kotrady, Cody Hill, MacKenzie Gayman, Morgan Fetting, Gabe Fridgen and Caleb Bartlett. The film "The Glorious & the Brave" was narrated by Joshua Butcher and Casie David, with Nicholas Scaricaciottoli as King George VI.

Writers for the companion book were Caleb Bartlett, Alana Bielarski, Ryan Blair, Eli Bock, Ryan Burgess, Cody Carbaugh, Benjamin Chaney, Cameron Christman, Callie Coleman, Terrence Dixon, Ryan Ebbitt, Michaela Ensminger, Shaun Frost, Jesse Hawbecker, Grace Horochowski, Aaron Hovey, Sharon Juarez, Cheyenne Kaiser, John Klink, Morgan Knoll, Kelsey Lawrence, Daimien Light, Hannah Lougheed, Nicholas Marschner, Hannah Martin, Mariah Martin, Sarah McCanuel, Mark McQuait, Kelsey Mellott, Harry Miller Jr., Andrew Monninger, Hannah Mooers, Dylan Myers, Quinn Myers, Aubree Poole, Zachary Rozes, Heather Sanders, Nick Scaricaciottoli, Justin Schildt, Kristen Sheller, Tasha Shuhart, Ammarah Spall, Stephen Spinder, Kayla Starr, Josh Stine, Austin Stouffer, Dylan Strayer, Aaron Tresler, Cassie Varner, Colby Zarger and Logan Zehrung.

At the public program, Kayla Stahl displayed an exhibit, "Holocaust Remembrance Through Art". Richard Walck set out tables of WWII memorabilia. The G-A Select Choir sang patriotic songs.

Fegan reflected on the event. "It was so rewarding to see 18 months of work celebrated by the people who attended. No one saw the finished products (DVD and book) beforehand and I know that many people were amazed by both.  It was an honor for me to work with the students, the veterans, and the survivors on this true 'labor of love'.  I could not be more proud!"

The first printing of the movie and book sold out, but more will be ordered. People may contact Fegan at home at 264-1008, at school 597-3226 or via email: mkfegan@greencastle.k12.pa.us

Proceeds benefit the Wounded Warriors Project and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Schools and organizations who would like information on special showings or programs of "The Glorious & The Brave" can also  contact Fegan for details.

Richard Gingrich signs a book for Rueanna Perry. His wartime experiences are recounted in the book and on film.