By Students Victoria Norchi and Ellen O’Hare, Grade 8
On Wednesday, November 12, Veterans from Massachusetts came to Kennedy Middle School to pass on experiences from the time they served.
They were greeted by the eighth grade students and shared breakfast with them in the cafeterias. Once the students separated into small groups, they ate with one or two veterans. Students brought a notecard to record memorable quotes or stories that the veteran shared. Many veterans brought souvenirs to show or give the groups, such as hats, pins, flags etc. Some veterans also brought in journals, parts of uniforms or maps to help explain their stories.
Veterans shared valuable lessons that are applicable not only in war, but life as well. One important message that was shared by a veteran was, “Do not confuse luck with destiny, and destiny with luck.” The veteran used this quote when he retold a story about the day they were being assigned their ships. He was number 778 in line, and the man next to him was 777. The man was gloating about being so lucky for having three sevens in a row. Many of the other men were jealous over his supposedly lucky number until a few days later, when his ship was found upside down in the harbor. His ship had been bombed and all men on the ship had died. The three sevens sat there, upside down, leaving the other men astonished with what had happened. The veteran that told this story was one number away, one place in line, from an abrupt and untimely end. This message was a lesson for the students as well because they must not credit things, good or bad, to luck.
Despite the obvious age divide between most of the veterans and students, they connected through human emotion and general interest in both storytelling and learning. Talking with the veterans was in no way a formulaic experience. Every story was different. One of the veterans had his students march around the school, and while my group was talking to one veteran, he started tearing up about the recent loss of his wife. That same veteran told us tales of camaraderie and humanity that transcended national boundaries. One story he told was that, while on duty in Spain, he was treated with the utmost hospitality, generosity, and kindness. His dinner was paid for, a limousine was arranged, and he was taken care of personally by a member of the Spanish royal family. One might think that he would be disrespected or mistreated because he was part of another army. He was so kindly taken care of for the exact reason that some might think he would be mistreated. Patriotism is universal, along with respect for those fighting for what they believe is right.
After the breakfast, eighth grade students met with their Three C’s (Kennedy’s advising and social-emotional education program) group to discuss what they learned and their thoughts about the topic. Overall, this experience broadened the perspective of the students. It was a great way to honor those who served in the military and the veterans sincerely appreciated the students’ willingness to learn. The students collaborated and shared stories from their veteran with each other, as well as shared their opinions on what goes on with war. They can now pass the stories and lessons that the veterans shared to others. The veterans opened up to share their stories, and now it’s up to the students to keep the veterans’ legacies alive.