Veterans share stories with middle schoolers | NevadaAppeal.com

Veterans share stories with middle schoolers

Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer

photos by Cathleen Allison/Nevada AppealChristina Meza, 13, listens as U.S. Navy veteran Robert Prater talks about his military service Wednesday at Carson Middle School. Eighth-grade U.S. History students interview veterans as part of a program to honor them on Veterans Day.

They ranged in ages 22 to 86.

Some were immigrants. Some born and raised in Carson City.

They had traveled the world, from Europe to Southeast Asia to the Middle East.

And they all had one thing in common: A story to tell.

Some 15 veterans from three wars visited the Carson Middle School Library at noon Wednesday to enjoy lunch and sit down with students from the school’s eighth grade U.S. History class and answer questions about their service.

They came in bomber jackets and khakis; military-issued fatigues ” and cashmere sweaters and dress slacks.

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They patiently spelled the names of the countries they’d visited. They smiled and reflected. They brought pictures of the places they’d been ” they described children they’d seen.

“You know, not everyone is as lucky as you and me sitting here,” said Robert Prater, 70, who retired from the U.S. Navy in 1995 and served two tours in Vietnam. “I got to see people living pretty simply. It makes you appreciate what we’ve got here.

“I ask myself if I were to do it all again, ‘would I?’ You bet. In a second.”

Christina Meza, 13, listened to Prater’s story, and when he got done speaking of his experience in the Navy, he had a few questions for her.

“Do you ever think of joining the military?” he asked.

She shrugged, he continued.

“I recently saw the crew of the USS Ronald Reagan was 19 percent women ” just like you,” he said. “Anyone can join and get right in it ” just like I did.”

Christina smiled.

“I think I could do it,” she said. “I haven’t really thought much about it.”

Indeed, encouraging the students ” as well as the community-at-large ” to think about veterans was the inspiration for the program’s origin, 10 years ago, said history teacher Kathy Dilger.

“I’m just carrying the torch here,” she said. “The students write the stories on individual placards, and we put them on the school’s front lawn for (Veterans Day) weekend.

“It’s a great reminder for all of us ” the price we pay to be where we are.”

David Stevenson, 25, shuffled pensively in his seat when asked by Danielle Dyer, 13, what his best moment in the military was.

“Wow, you’ve got the hard questions,” said the U.S. Army staff sergeant and veteran of a tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

“I would say it was just coming home safe with all my buddies.”

Stevenson, who is serving in the National Guard while he completes his degree at the University of Nevada, Reno, said he plans to go back full time to the Army once his degree is finished early next year.

“I think I can get one more tour out of it,” he said.

He encouraged Danielle to think about the military.

“Oh, yeah ” you could do it,” he said, smiling. “It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done. Ask around this room, they’ll tell you the same thing.”

Tom Jacobs, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam and continued his service with the National Guard ” and is set to retire early next year after almost 22 years ” said being in the armed forces has “given me a privileged life.”

“I think of how much I’ve seen ” what I’ve gotten to do,” he said. “I probably would’ve never gone to college otherwise. It’s been the kind of experience that has marked me in a lot of ways.”

Robert May, 86, a retired civil engineer and Carson resident of 42 years, served in the Navy in the Pacific from 1943-46. The father of five spoke of the recent Ken Burns documentary “The War”.

“It was good, it showed we made some mistakes over there too,” he said. “I got my degree while in the reserve corps. It was an experience.”

As far as the three generations of veterans sharing stories with one another ” well, said Vietnam veteran Chet Alexander, Wednesday was for the students.

“Our stories ” well, that may be better left over a beer,” he chuckled.

– Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at apridgen@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.

If you go

What: Veterans Day

Stake-out and flag ceremony

When: Stake-out is Nov.

9 at 11 a.m; flag ceremony Nov. 9, time TBA

Where: Carson Middle School, 1140 W. King St.

Call: 283-2800