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Students step 75 years back in time

Jun 23, 2017 09:50AM ● Published by Jet Burnham

Students ask living historians and collectors about WWII. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

Gallery: Students step 75 years back in time [4 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Jet Burnham | j.burnham@mycityjournals.com

Alyse Almond, a history teacher at West Jordan High School, is passionate about World War II. She wants her students to understand that history involved real people who experienced loss and triumph.

“The artifacts and personal stories of those who served [our country] need not be forgotten,” said Almond.

As a member of the Utah Military History Group, Almond provided her students with an opportunity to make real connections with American military history. At the third annual Military Day, her group displayed their collections of war-time artifacts.

“There are so many veterans that tell me they don’t think kids care about this anymore,” said Almond. “This is our way of helping those veterans to know that kids really do care about their service and what they did and the sacrifices that they made.” 

Emily Reichman is a former WJH student who joined the group to help preserve the history of this era by educating youth.  

“I feel like they don’t know their heritage enough to know how proud they should be,” Reichman said. “They don’t know enough about foreign affairs to realize how blessed they are to live in a country where we have all these freedoms.” She believes education can keep the appreciation of veterans alive.

“In another 10 years, these WWII veterans will be gone,” said Reichman. She said the high school students (whose relation to veterans is now separated by two and three generations) are able to connect with the people of that era through interacting with the items they owned and used. 

Memorabilia from all branches of the military were represented: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine and the Army Air Forces. There were also displays specific to military medics and war correspondents. Students were also able to explore inside 1942 and 1944 Willy’s Jeeps. 

Members of the history group were dressed in authentic uniforms. Each had a story about the original owner—usually a relative.

Some students knew of relatives who served during the war. 

One student recognized his grandfather in a photograph as he perused a Navy display. The historian who owned the picture directed the student to a website where he could get a copy of the picture and was able to provide information about the ship his grandfather served on.

“We focus on so many aspects,” said historian Abigail Henderson, another WJH graduate who is part of UMHG. “Kids find one thing they really like and spend time at the table that interests them.” Senior Kaleb Wimber spent a lot of time examining the medic equipment on display. His great-grandfather was an airborne medic.

“I do a lot of reading, but you never really know unless you talk to an actual historian,” said Wimber, a history buff. He said this experience was unique because much of the memorabilia was specific to Utahns in the war.

 UMHG Members emphasize authenticity in their collections. They research extensively to ensure accuracy down to the right style of netting on their helmets. Almond said everything on display is authentic—from the uniforms, weapons and medals to the medic’s first aid kit supplies, time-period cameras and newspapers with major war-time headlines.

All WJH’s history classes were invited to explore the displays throughout the day. 

“This day is a way for us to help bring what they study in class alive,” said Almond. She encouraged students to ask questions; UMHG historians love to share their stories. 

Almond shares her own stories in the World War II class she teaches at WJH. 

“She is so passionate about it that it makes it so much fun to learn about it,” said senior Laurel Kelly. “She knows so much about it and goes very in depth with a lot that you normally wouldn’t learn about.” 

Almond’s passion for history is contagious. Two of her former students are now a part of the history group, and Wimber planned to join after graduation. 

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