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.