Close to 400 students met and engaged with 64 active duty members of the military and veterans as part of Berkley High School’s Military Appreciation Day Nov. 6.

Close to 400 students met and engaged with 64 active duty members of the military and veterans as part of Berkley High School’s Military Appreciation Day Nov. 6.

Phots provided by Jessica Stilger


Active-duty military, veterans spend day with Berkley High students

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published November 14, 2017

 LaTonya Pettigrew, of the U.S. Army, talks with a Berkley High School student during the school’s Military Appreciation Day Nov. 6.

LaTonya Pettigrew, of the U.S. Army, talks with a Berkley High School student during the school’s Military Appreciation Day Nov. 6.

Photo provided by Jessica Stilger

BERKLEY — As part of its yearly Veterans Day tradition, Berkley High School brought in active-duty members of the military and veterans to meet and talk with students for a day.

The high school brought in 64 guests as part of its Military Appreciation Day Nov. 6 to meet with about 390 students. The guests chatted with the students and answered questions about their time in the service.

Jennifer Simone, a history teacher who’s organized each gathering for the event’s six years, said this year’s edition was the largest yet.

“It was a fantastic experience. It always is,” she said. “It’s an amazing moment when you get conversations going between different generations, and when you have someone who’s in their 90s talking with someone who’s 14, that’s a fantastic opportunity for learning and for expression.”

One veteran who’s attended several of the events is Andrew Hermann, who was at first enlisted in the Navy before being assigned to the Marine Corps. He served from 1965 to 1969 during the Vietnam War. He said the event gets better every year.

“You’re seeing old faces every year of veterans or active duty, so you kind of renew those relationships as you go along. Some friendly faces,” he said.

Hermann said this year’s event also was special for him, as he got to spend time with one of his granddaughters at the high school and his daughter, Andrea, who works at Rogers Elementary School.

“That was pretty special,” he said.

Throughout the course of the day, Hermann said, he chatted with students and answered questions on how he ended up in the military and explained how the military wasn’t always on a volunteer basis.

He also noticed how the girls he was talking to seemed more engaged than the boys, and he would try to get people more involved in the conversation.

“As veterans, we’ve kind of found that the way to get them engaged is to talk directly to them — maybe ask them a question,” he said. “Get them engaged that way. So I get a little bit better at it every year.”

Out of the 390 students who participated in the day, 370 were ninth-graders, one of whom was 14-year-old Claire Harbeck, of Berkley.

Harbeck said she met many veterans and active-duty members from different branches who showed her things from their time in the service.

From her time speaking with them, one story that Harbeck recounted from a veteran was something that really shocked her.

“He did go to a concentration camp in Germany when he was serving, and he said when he went there, some of his friends said there’s still a lingering smell from the crematorium from when they were burning the bodies, and said the smell was still there after years, and he was just so surprised because you would think it would dissipate and just go away,” she said.

Something that Harbeck took away from the day was how, whether they actually fought in a war or not, all of the veterans were proud to serve their country and to keep people safe.

“They were just all very proud to be there and happy, I guess, they were being thanked,” she said.