VFW honors Trafalgar Middle School eighth grader for history project on the Vietnam War
Earlier this school year Thomas LeBarbera, a history teacher at Trafalgar Middle, assigned a project to his students that involved learning about the U.S. Armed Forces throughout history.
From that assignment, eighth grade student Dennie Clark created a project on the Vietnam War based on the real life experiences of a local veteran.
On Friday, representatives from the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars Post in North Fort Myers went to the middle school to honor LeBarbera and Clark with certificates of appreciation. They decided to present the certificates to remind students that today is Armed Forces Day.
For his project Clark interviewed Quartermaster Daniel Woods, with the VFW Post in North Fort Myers, on his experiences in Vietnam.
“Dennie came and wanted to write about Vietnam, and I’m the quartermaster so they had me meet with him,” said Woods.
The two met over a couple of days where Woods told Clark all about his first mission in 1964 where he provided supplies to devastated cities along the coast of South Vietnam.
“We brought 16,000 tons of supplies from Hong Kong during a typhoon,” said Woods. “They were bags of flour, cooking oil and cornmeal.”
He even provided Clark with photos of his outfit during the operation. In the photos, Woods and his fellow soldiers loaded the supplies onto a helicopter.
“Our outfit went up and down the coast giving it to the people that had been wiped out, and we lost five Marines doing it,” explained Woods.
His second tour of duty was south of the border between North and South Vietnam, also known as the demilitarized zone. Woods was responsible for driving five-ton trucks loading with supplies to outer fire bases.
Clark’s project on Woods, entitled “The Vietnam War: Conflict and Compromise,” was honored on Friday by Post Commander Clifton Naylor, Senior Vice Commander Richard Lopiano and Woods, as well as Clark’s grandfather Rex.
The certificates were handed out in LeBarbera’s classroom, where Naylor explained to the students that the number of soldiers who died in Vietnam were equivalent to the number of students in 36 middle schools.
“It was very hard on the public, but if you remember everything we did then it won’t be in vain,” said Naylor to the students.
Clark’s project will be on display at the VFW Post on Pondella Road in North Fort Myers, but Woods said that other posts in Lee and Collier have expressed interest in displaying it.
According to Woods, the VFW is trying to become more involved with the schools. They want to begin recognizing other public servants as well, such as teachers, police officers and fire fighters.
The organization has opportunities for middle school students to earn scholarships to college with the Patriot’s Pen, a youth essay writing contest. Each year the VFW determines a theme and students write between 300 and 400 words.
They can win anywhere between $1,000 and $10,000 in U.S. Savings Bonds. More information can be found at the Web site of the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars (vfw.org).