Vets visit high schoolers

OCEANSIDE — In honor of Veteran’s Day veterans of World War II, and the Korean, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars shared their war experiences with students at El Camino High School on Nov. 9.
A ceremony to honor veterans started the day, then veterans spoke to students in small classroom groups.
“The question and answer session is where I think they get the most,” Mary Nible, an El Camino High School English teacher, said. “They ask what they can relate to, like ‘Were you scared?’”
The day allowed students to hear about veterans’ war experiences firsthand and prompted some students to think about serving. “It allows me to honor those who have gone before me to put their lives in danger to protect out country,” MCJROTC Cadet Staff Sgt. David Barranco, said. “I have a cousin in Afghanistan. I’m thinking about a career covering media in the military.”
“My dad is eight years retired (from the military),” Angel Thomas, a high school senior, said. “This day I remember family who were brave enough to do what they did.”
The day also gave veterans an opportunity to talk about their service. Accounts of heroism were mixed with humor and daily survival.
“They called it death row,” Bob Cook, retired Chief Bos’n U.S. Navy, said, as he shared his experience serving on a gun crew on a merchant ship in World War II. “We did what we were told. There was nothing in your mind about being afraid.”
The firsthand accounts of war provided students vivid insight into history.
“Last year we had a veteran who had never spoken about the war before,” Nible said. “He talked through his tears. I think it’s one of those moments I’ll never forget.”
For 15 years military veterans have visited El Camino High School to share their military experiences.
“The idea came from Mr. Downs, my history teacher,” Bob Nelson, history teacher at El Camino High School, said. Together Nealson and Downs, a San Luis Rey Rotarian, coordinate veterans and classroom schedules to give El Camino High School students one-on-one time with military veterans.
“It opens up their eyes to a lot of history with a face and a story,” Nelson said.

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