Project tells war stories


Cole Hrapczak, a senior, thanks Martha Kuhns for sharing her stories about the Vietnam War. The Veterans Heritage Project hosts a wide variety of veteran speakers every month. “Meeting Sally was the highlight of the day for me,” said Hrapczak.

Michael Kaegi, staff writer

The Veterans Heritage Project, since its foundation in 2004, has helped to tell the stories and bring a new perspective for students about the lives of veterans who served the country.
The program was founded by Barbara Hatch, a former teacher who looked to bring information to students about veterans and their stories.
Bret Lineburg, a history teacher, is the current advisor.
“I help to oversee the student’s behavior and actions. I will help them when it comes to setting up and sitting in on interviews; students always have to have an adult present when interviewing veterans,” said Lineburg.
The purpose of VHP is to inform students about veterans’ real life experiences, in which they get to choose a veteran to interview and then write an essay about. Each essay gets published into one book every year, which includes each veteran’s story and experience.
“We usually catch up on everything and see if everyone is caught up with their interviews. Sometimes, we have special meetings or work days on Saturdays where we can work on the book,” said Kate Rigberg, a junior.
Each book usually ties the veterans essays with a certain theme. This year, the program is specifically focusing on Vietnam war veterans.
“Right now, I’m interviewing Sammy Davis who won a medal of honor and served in Vietnam,” said Oscar De Simone, a junior.
Over 2,000 veteran stories have inspired many students since the foundation of the program, and changed their outlooks on how they perceive America’s veterans. It has encouraged other schools outside of Cactus Shadows to join the program and get students interested in their history.
“Before I joined VHP, I saw war veterans as more gung ho and leaning towards violence, but now I understand that they’re doing good for our country and protecting us,” said De Simone.
The goal of the program is to honor American heritage, as well as promote future leaders.
“Students get perspectives on other people’s experiences. They develop a much more notable sense of empathy, an incredible work ethic, because it’s not easy to conduct that interview and write an essay that talks about a veteran’s sometimes sensitive experiences. They get trained in writing development so they become fantastic essay writers, and for students working on the editing software, they get very valuable experience in technology,” said Lineburg.
With 43,000 students involved and over 30 schools participating in the program, VHP hopes to continue growing and telling the stories of America’s war veterans.