Youth Learn Of World War II Through The Memories Of
Don Graves fought at Iwo Jima, one of the fiercest battles of
World War II. He recalls seeing his fellow marines raise the
American flag on Mount Suribachi, a moment captured in the
now-iconic photograph. Victor Moiles was among thousands of U.S.
soldiers at the Battle of the Bulge, the final major Nazi offensive
against the Allied forces, fought in the winter of 1944-45 in the
dense, snowy forests of Belgium's Ardennes region.
Stories like these helped to bring World War II history to life
for 60 students from Grapevine-Colleyville ISD (GCISD) Tuesday, as
they boarded the American Airlines 757 yellow-ribbon aircraft,
"Flagship Freedom," for a trip to Washington, D.C. The students
accompanied a group of veterans for a day featuring in-flight
learning, interviews with veterans, and visits to important
monuments, including the World War II Memorial, which 43 of the
veterans will be seeing for the first time.
The trip was the culmination of the WWII Freedom Flight program,
developed by GCISD in partnership with American Airlines and
supported by the Fort Worth Airpower Foundation. The program was
designed to give students a direct and enduring understanding of
the connection between the rights and freedoms we enjoy today and
the heroes whose sacrifices made them possible.
"The WWII Freedom Flight program has already exceeded our
expectations as an educational experience for the students," said
Dr. Robin Ryan, Superintendent of Grapevine-Colleyville ISD. "The
feedback from teachers and administrators has been tremendous;
every school in the district has been engaged in the program
through classroom activity or student involvement with the
competitions. We have already seen the bonds developing between the
students and the veterans, and we know this will only strengthen
during today's trip to Washington, D.C."
The 60 student ambassadors were selected for the trip from among
more than 1,200 who submitted entries to two district-wide
competitions held in March and April: a challenge coin design
contest and an "Expressions of Freedom" competition that invited
students to submit projects in various media illustrating how they
would honor the nation's veterans. Ambassadors have specific
assignments and duties associated with their role, and the overall
experience is intended to provide a learning opportunity they will
remember for a lifetime.
"The veterans participating in this trip will serve as the
single best history lesson a student can ever experience," said
Lisa Arpey, program leader of WWII Freedom Flight. "We hope that
WWII Freedom Flight will help shape our students into
self-directed, accountable young men and women who are motivated to
do their best – not just because they are told to do so, but
because they understand why they should."
The veterans and students ambassadors were honored during a
community-wide "Celebration of Freedom Night" held the evening of
May 9 at Grapevine High School. Special guest speakers included
Medal of Honor recipient SSG (Ret.) Salvatore Giunta and Mary
Eisenhower, President and CEO of People to People International. An
overflow crowd of all ages gathered for the event, which also
featured a parachute jump by SFC (Ret.) Dana Bowman, a former
member of the U.S. Army Golden Knights elite military parachute
team; a tandem jump by Golden Knight SFC Mike Elliott and GCISD's
superintendent Dr. Robin Ryan; and musical performances by
recording artists Steve Amerson, Matt Snook and Helene Cronin.
WWII Freedom Flight is designed to provide meaningful engagement
in the classroom and community. The program encompasses a wide
variety of elements and activities for students, including a social
studies curriculum that aims to improve student literacy about the
fundamentals of democracy. Future plans are to expand the WWII
Freedom Flight program into other school districts across the