Before the interviews began Thursday, students from Three Rivers Elementary shared some funny moments with veterans at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport. Veteran John Morash joked "You need to speak up because I don't have my hearing aids, pace maker, or my artificial limbs".
It didn't take long before the subject turned serious. One student asked him "In the beginning of the war, did you think that you would win"? Morash answered "Nobody goes into a war thinking he's going to lose".
While the fourth graders fired questions at the World War II veterans, the fifth graders captured every moment on video.
Teacher Pam Datlof said "There was a challenge issued to all the students across the U.S. to actually go out there and get the stories of WWII veterans before their life cycle ends. That way, they can share their stories with others, and put them into the archives. My students decided they wanted to explore WWII, and why the people fought in that war, and what they gave up for our freedom".
Another student asked "Where did you fight, like where were you?" Veteran Walter Bouchard answered "I wasn't in Okanawa, and I wasn't in Japan, but all the other islands in the Pacific, I probably hit them".
The students also learned how a war in the past is similar to the present war in Iraq. A student asked "What do you think about Saddam Hussein?" Bouchard laughed as he responded "I don't think I could put that on the air".
The lesson has been an eye-opening experience for fifth grader Aly Gould. Her dad, who's in the Air National Guard, is in Kuwait.
Aly Gould said "It's helping me understand why he went over there and why they made him go over there, because they need people that are willing to just go over and fight".
Understanding why war happens, and hearing stories from the people who lived it, have helped these students appreciate our veterans so much more. The students will edit the documentary and send it to the Smithsonian probably at the end of April.