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World War II veterans Zoom with school children to keep history alive

Hundreds of children at San Diego Jewish Academy interact online with veterans.

SAN DIEGO — World War II ended 75 years ago and the veterans of that war are now in their nineties or older.  But that’s not stopping them from reaching out, via Zoom, to school children in San Diego.

Earlier this week, four veterans of WWII in the Pacific connected with hundreds of students, K through 12th graders, at San Diego Jewish Academy.

Navy Signalman Gilbert Nadeau enlisted when he was 16 years old.

“I ended up on a very small ship,” Nadeau told the students. “The biggest challenge, of course, was staying alive.”

Parachute Rigger Manual Flores joined the U.S. Marine Corps when he was age 17.

Gunpointer Stuart Hedley joined the Navy when he was 18, and he survived the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“We had been hit by six torpedoes,” said Hedley. “The fire was as high as this building, from the oil that was burning on the water.”

Aviation Engineer Andre Chappaz enlisted in the Army when he was 18 and served on the islands of Guam and Okinawa.

“Everything was wet. All our equipment was wet. Our rifles began to rust,” Chappaz told the students.

The Zoom meetings were held in the military wing of a private auto museum in Sorrento Valley, owned by philanthropists Chuck and Amy Spielman.

The school children – K through 12 graders – responded with a patriotic video of their own to thank the veterans.

“I enjoy talking to children about the war,” said Chappaz, who is age 95.

“For four years we had 14 landings on these islands. The Japanese were ahead of us in amphibious warfare, but by the time the war was over, we beat them at their own game. That’s the history I like to convey to the young,” said Chappaz.

Former San Diego Charger, Donnie Edwards, organized the event through his nonprofit, the Best Defense Foundation.  The group works to engage children with veterans and helps WWII vets return to their battlefields all around the world.

“Freedom is not free. Freedom is gained at a price," said 99-year-old Hedley.

"You [children]  are the future of our country. Keep your mind and your eyes open.  Know what's going on around about you. Learn to love one another. Then, you won't fight with one another,” Hedley said.