Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Washington DC Day One

Day One - Travel Day from OKC to Washington DC
28 Excited travelers to start the day.

After a fully loaded, bumpy flight and an hour long shuttle ride to our hotel, we finally make it to our nation's capitol.

And what do you suppose was the highlight of the trip so far? The Capitol Building, The Washington Monument?
Of course! The pool!

Tomorrow we really start our DC adventure with a tour of the Library of Congress, a visit to the Veteran's History Project, and Arlington.
A big thank you for everyone, including Oklahoma VFWs who helped to get us here.
Until tomorrow's post...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Just a quick update on happenings. Please follow this link Memorial Day & Oklahoma to see a 2-minute video on Oklahoma soldiers who gave their all and are buried in overseas graves. Michael Beach has traveled the world on a mission to give a little bit of Oklahoma back to every Oklahoma soldier who is buried in overseas cemeteries. Michael places an Oklahoma rose rock on every Oklahoma headstone as a tribute to their sacrifice. Michael visited Bridge Creek last year to speak with our Service-Learning Youth Action Council about his project, and in return they shared their Veteran's History Project with him. They were also able to connect him with family members of the Lantow brothers highlighted in his video.
Michael had previously visited Normandy, France, and had placed rose rocks on the Lantow brothers' headstones. Robert and Norman Lantow were killed 6 months apart in 1944 and are buried side-by-side. Before we met Michael, we had begun our own investigation into the Oklahoma soldiers buried in Normandy. Students were given the challenge of trying to find surviving relatives of these soldiers in hopes we could mail them pictures of their loved one's headstone that Mrs. Skeen and I had photographed while we were in Normandy. One group of students located the Lantow's surviving brothers in Claremore, OK. We were able to connect with the brothers and interview them from two perspectives. Both brothers are veterans too - one from WWII, the other a Korean War veteran. But they were also able to tell us about their brothers, Robert and Norman. We learned what they were like as children, as young adults, as soldiers, as brothers still sorely missed. Incredible journey for all involved!
So thanks to Michael for remembering all these fallen heroes who lay far from home but are not forgotten.
On another note: Stay tuned in the blog this week. Our 6th grade Youth Action Council students, parents, teachers, and 3 Vietnam vets are traveling to Washington DC tomorrow for a week of discovering and documenting our journey. We have a scheduled stop at the Library of Congress and the Veteran's History Project offices to hand-deliver this year's veteran interviews. The students completed 12 interviews this year, so great job to them!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I'm A Veteran Reader Program

"I'm a Veteran Reader"

Two years ago and many veteran interviews later, one of our veterans approached us about staying connected to our school. He said he wanted to have a reason to come back and visit. Out of that conversation, "I'm a Veteran Reader" was born.

We began with one first grade class and about 5 veteran volunteers. Beginning in January, 2010, the veterans began coming to school on Friday afternoons and became "reading buddies" with the first graders. They listened to the students read and passed out baseball-type "collector" cards after each student finished reading to them. The cards include a picture of the veteran, the war they served in, and the "I'm a Veteran Reader" logo. The cards have become quite the collector items for the students!

The last week of reading, students were rewarded with t-shirts that said "I'm a Veteran Reader 2." A couple of the students cried because they didn't want the veterans to leave. A couple of the veterans cried because THEY didn't want to leave!

I'm a Veteran Reader has been such a positive program that this year all 5 first grade classes are participating! This year our group of veteran readers averaged about 10-12. The teachers are so supportive of the veterans and vice versa. The program is a wonderful way for the students to practice their new reading skills, but it is also a great inter-generational opportunity.

This program has brought about several positive surprises along with it. Two of our veterans have therapy dogs, so they bring their dogs with them. Of course, the dogs are popular reading buddies! The dogs have collector cards as well that say "I'm a Veteran Listener." Patience (photo below) is deaf. Her veteran owner tells the students that she reads lips!
Another pleasant surprise has been that some of the veteran spouses have started to volunteer too. Their cards say, "I'm a Veteran Reader's Wife."
The program continues to grow and we are looking forward to next year.

Our hope at Bridge Creek is that this project will catch on and other schools will want to include veterans in their volunteer base and create their own "I'm a Veteran Reader" program. So please pass this idea on to your local school.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

John B. Lippard, WWII Marine, EX POW

Some people are heroes for what they've done...some for who they are. John B. Lippard represents the best of both. Mr. Lippard is a kind, endearing man. At 90 years old, he still has a quick smile and jovial spirit. He is a father, husband, brother, grandfather, great-grandfather and walks a little slower these days.
If you crossed paths with him at the local retail store, you might not know that:

Bataan fell to the Japanese on April 9, 1942. Four days later Mr. Lippard turned 21 while stationed at Correigidor.
Correigidor fell on May 6, 1942. He was a prisoner of war for 42 months and has many stories of his captivity in the Pacific.
He and other prisoners were beaten so severely that they were unrecognizable. He survived the unimaginable with grace and dignity. After the war, he continued to serve in the military.
He escorted John Wayne to Correigidor in 1958.
He retired from the Marines, but..."Once a Marine, always a Marine."

Mr. Lippard is the first in this blog's series highlighting the lives of some of our veterans. His is a remarkable life.
Thank you Mr. Lippard for your service and your willingness to share your story. You are a true American Hero.

If you would like to see more of John Lippard's story, follow this link:

John Lippard Untitled Manuscript

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Little Hands for Big Heroes Lapquilt Project

Little Hands For Big Heroes
Little Hands Background:
While older students, 5th-8th grade, were busy doing interviews with veterans, younger students wanted to be involved too. Little Hands for Big Heroes was developed to introduce 4th graders to service-learning and to veterans in particular.
Mrs. Skeen, Title I Math Teacher, worked with 4th graders to teach measurement math concepts. Mrs. Dake, Gifted and Art Teacher, taught color, pattern, and history of quilts to 4th grade art students. Gifted students learned leadership skills as they worked with first grade students painting handprints on each quilt.

Veteran's Hospital Partner
The Veteran's Hospital in Oklahoma City has been our community partner since the first year of Little Hands. The Volunteer Services department at the VA has been an amazing partner! Students of all ages, parents, and teachers deliver lapquilts on Saturday visits. On each visit, students visit each patient and give them a quilt. They thank the veteran for their service and just try to brighten their day a little.

Other incredible partners include QuiltWorks in Oklahoma City, and volunteers who now help sew quilt tops for us. Without their countless hours of sewing, we would not be able to put together the
quilts like we do.
Since 2006 we have distributed almost 700 quilts.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Library of Congress
This post is to introduce you to the Bridge Creek Veteran's History Project. We hope you will follow our progress and help us honor our veterans.
Bridge Creek Elementary School began interviewing war veterans in 2005 as part of a service-learning project. Students videotape the interviews and send a copy to the Library of Congress in Washington DC. In the interview, students ask the veterans questions from boot camp/training experiences to what they are doing today. As of April 2011, students have completed almost 75 interviews with 60 already catalogued in the Library of Congress. Our veterans range in age from 23 to 93 - from WWII to Panama to Afghanistan - from foot soldiers to submarine captains. 
If you would like to view our interviews, follow this link:

The project has expanded to include many more students and several other projects with our veterans that will be introduced in upcoming posts. Please visit often as we highlight some of our veterans, projects, upcoming events, and veteran information.

Mrs. Dake/Mrs. Skeen
Service Learning Coordinators