High School Students Help Document World War II Veterans' Stories

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    NEWSLETTERS

    It's a race against the clock for a group of Fairfax County high school students. They are working to preserve history by interviewing surviving World War II veterans. News4 Northern Virginia Bureau reporter David Culver introduces us to those behind the project, including a teen who says it saved her life. (Published Tuesday, Feb 19, 2013)

    West Springfield High School students in Fairfax County are racing against the clock to preserve history by interviewing surviving World War II veterans.

    WWII veterans are passing away at an alarming rate.

    "The rush is we are losing, according to the Veterans' Administration, 600 to a thousand World War II veterans a day," Friends of the National World War II Memorial Director of Education Jim Percoco said.

    His group aims to preserve the legacy of those who served -- whether at home or on the front lines -- the war effort.

    The recently retired West Springfield High School teacher recruited some of his former students together to help document these veterans' stories.

    "It's imperative that we get these stories now and preserve them," Percoco said. "Not just for the students, but for the family members."

    Throughout the year, these students record interviews with WWII veterans. There are often hugs, tears and laughter -- sometimes over the course of just a few minutes.

    "They could have been like us -- just a normal teenager, sitting around having fun -- but they were forced to go to war," West Springfield senior Heidi Abou-Ghaida said. "And hearing that was really interesting and definitely taught you to start growing up."

    Abou-Ghaida doesn't claim to be a history buff.

    "Let's just say I kind of messed around in class. I focused a lot, but it wasn't something I was really interested in until I walked into (Percoco's) class," she said.

    She said this project changed her life and she hopes it'll change how high schools teach history.

    "Instead of just start reading from the books, (I hope) they start watching these interviews," Abou-Ghaida said.

    One WWII veteran exemplified Abou-Ghaida's point by telling a student, "I'll I can say is this for these kids today: Be thankful. Be thankful and thank God that we won the war."

    If you know a WWII veteran who wants to share their story, you can contact the Friends of the National WWII Memorial.