Today sixteen World War II veterans spoke with charter school middle school students from different charter schools, at The Pinnacle Event Center. The event was hosted by The Greatest Generation Foundation and Woodrow Wilson Academy. As the veterans entered the event center, the approximately 650 students gave them a standing ovation and applauded until all the veterans had entered and were seated.
The program began with the documentary, "Iwo Jima: A Final Tour," produced by KMGH Channel 7. Last spring many of the veterans at today's event traveled to Iwo Jima to mark the 65th anniversary of the battle. TGGF founder and president, Tim Davis, received a check for $1275 from the charter schools and supportive sponsors.
After a veteran spoke about his experiences in the European theater and another spoke about the Pacific theater, students from the different charter schools posed questions of all the veterans. Many of the veterans had incredible stories of surviving the battle for Iwo Jima, Pearl Harbor and other battles. One man bailed out of his plane 15 seconds before it exploded over Germany. He spent the next three weeks walking to the border where he could meet up with Americans. During that three week period he went from 185 pounds to 95 pounds, eating only bugs, grass and even a live chicken he came across.
After the program, veterans met with students in an area with numerous artifacts and memorabilia on display. Many of the students collected signatures of the veterans on the back of the photo card distributed by TGGF. The foundation also had two Army jeeps outside for students to climb in and experience.
I spoke with one veteran after most of the students had left and said, "How does it feel to be a celebrity today?" His response was, "I'm just a survivor." One of the veterans declined the Purple Heart after Iwo Jima stating, "...too many others had died for it."
The six charter schools participating in the event today were: Woodrow Wilson Academy, The Academy, Lincoln Academy, Excel Academy, Jefferson Academy and Crown Pointe Academy.