Vietnam War comes to live for MHS students

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The Vietnam War is in full swing. You're young and you just arrived in a foreign and exotic place, you don't quite know what to expect. Your training is fresh in your mind and the bonds you have formed with your fellow enlisted men are strong. You dive into the conflict in Vietnam hoping to serve your country honorably and represent the best that you know how.

This experience was shared with more than 200 MHS students on Nov. 14 in the Performing Arts Center by four local area Vietnam veterans. Former Middleton Mayor Doug Zwank, VA Hospital dentist John Hoser, helicopter pilot and Board of Education member Bob Hesselbein, and retired commercial artist Dave Kies visited MHS to share their memories, stories, experiences, and lessons related to the Vietnam War with students.

The event was organized and hosted by MHS teachers Molly Meck, Caitlin Farrell, Andrew Hartman, Kari Weiss, and Brian Byrne.

The military veterans used pictures and artifacts from the war to allow students and inside look into the experiences that the group collectively went through over a 10-year period during the Vietnam War. Each speaker also shared personal life stories. Who they were, who they became, and their path through life was on display which gave students an example to learn from as they begin to set their own life ambitions and aspirations for the future.

"The veterans' visit provided our curriculum with a human touch so that students could see that when you boil it down, history is really all about the collective story of the individual,'' said Meck, a new teacher in the District. "Here talking to and engaging students today were four personal examples of history in action."

The Contemporary U.S. History course is in its second year at MHS and has been written, developed, and adapted to meet students at their level and increase their social studies reading, writing, and comprehension abilities. The course begins with the start of the Cold War and takes students all the way up to the current social, political, and economic challenges of today.

As a curriculum team, the Contemporary U.S. History teachers are constantly reflecting on past lessons, striving to come up with fresh and new ideas, and engage students at their level, MHS teacher Andrew Hartman said.

"History can be difficult for younger generations to connect to the present,'' Hartman said. ''This visit from the John, Bob, Dave, and Doug allowed students to make important connections between the past, present, and future.''

Students are now writing letters to the visiting veterans to relay their appreciation, lessons learned, and questions that still remain, Hartman said. All this preparation is in an effort to prepare for a Socratic seminar in which students will be required to create, organize, deliver, and defend verbal arguments in an attempt to answer the question: What should the United States have done in Vietnam?