WWII Veterans of The Tradition-Prestonwood present their experiences to schools. From left: Ed Zaucha, Morris Shaw, Bob Boehm, Paul Fouts and Alan Merril.
America’s independence, to be celebrated this Fourth of July, was only established after the Revolution had been fought eight long years. As we approach this anniversary of our freedom, it seems fitting to look at another war, this one fought to preserve our independence: World War II.
According to Bob Boehm, stationed in Okinawa in the 20th Air Force, World War II should be not only studied by every student in this country, but also taught by the troops who fought in it. His fervor prompted him to gather four other veterans where he lives at The Tradition-Prestonwood retirement community, put together a presentation “World War II Up Close,” and take it to school children.
“There is no good war,” Bob is quick to point out. “But World War II was the last great patriotic war, and the deadliest in history. Nobody disagreed about our being in it. Students need to learn about it – and about the reasons for it – from those who were there.”
“World War II was the last great patriotic war, and the deadliest in history. Students need to learn about it from those who were there."
Their first outing was to Vista Academy of Garland, where 67 students, 10 to 14 years old, sat in rapt attention. The presenters were from both theaters: Bob Boehm, 15th AACS in the Pacific Theater, was joined by Paul Fouts, 92nd Infantry Division, Italy; and – in the 8th Air Force, England – Alan Merril, 305 Bomb Group; Morris Shaw, 384 Bomb Group; and Ed Zaucha, 49 Bomb Group.
During the presentation, Morris Shaw showed a piece of his parachute: “I cut it off of the tree where I had been hanging!” Alan Merril described V2 bombs: “These were bad – they took out entire blocks in London.” And Ed Zaucha told of bailing out over Berlin and being missing in action for two-and-a-half months
“(V2 bombs) were bad – they took out
entire blocks in London.”
Afterwards, eager hands shot up and questions flew. “Some had never heard of World War II before,” said an astonished Paul Fouts. Fliers were passed out to each child about “World War II Up Close,” at the end of which was an invitation: “Join us, be a proud American” – and a blank for the child to sign his or her name. The children were to keep these documents as a remembrance of the day – and of their pledged patriotism.
We can’t talk to the veterans of the American Revolution; but there is still a little time to hear from today’s veterans who risked their lives for our freedom. Bob Boehm, aware of this short window, said with some urgency, “I wish we could take this to every school in Texas.”
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