Academy of Sacred Heart students meet veterans

The Academy of the Sacred Heart High School visited the National World War II Museum’s Airpower Expo at New Orleans Lakefront Airport Oct. 24. There, they met WWII veterans and climbed into the cockpits of restored vehicles and aircraft.
Senior Alana Garvey, a WWII buff for the past decade, said the visit was a dream come true.
“Rarely, I would imagine, is one presented with the opportunity to watch a B-24 Liberator taxi down the runway right in front of their very eyes; to pose for the camera, with their friends and teachers, in front of an original P-51 Mustang; or to crawl through one of the only 11 of its kind left, restored and entirely operational today – the famed B-17 Flying Fortress, the bomber that many enthusiasts would argue won the war,” she said.
Garvey has a particular interest in the technology and weapons used in WWII, but said she was fascinated watching her classmates’ curiosity piqued.

These girls, who had perhaps never given a thought to World War II outside of their classrooms, were suddenly immersed in an environment that fostered questions and discussion about the war, whether specifically about the planes or not,” Garvey said. “It is quite an experience indeed when a group of teenage girls gather around veterans from the war and crews that now fly and maintain the restored planes to hear their stories, experiences, and how these very planes played such an influential role in their lives.”

Talked to veterans
Sophomore Caroline Kavanaugh had been to the WWII Museum in the past and heard veterans speak, but this exhibit provided her with the opportunity to speak with WWII veterans and learn life lessons so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

“These men and women showed great strength in everything they did to fight for our country and create a safe future for coming generations,” Kavanaugh said. “There was at least one veteran at every plane who either flew that specific plane or one of the same model. These veterans had my classmates and me mesmerized with the true-life details of their stories.”

She found veteran Karnig Thomasian to be particularly captivating as he recounted his experiences as a Japanese POW for six months.

“It brought tears to our eyes when (Thomasian) mentioned his trip back to America in 1945,” Kavanaugh said. “As the pilot was about to land at the JFK airport, he told Thomasian and other men to look out the window as they flew around the Statue of Liberty. Thomasian said, ‘This is when I knew I was home. You never really know what freedom is until you are deprived of it.’”

Talking to these members of the greatest generation, the survivors of the WWII, is important, Kavanaugh said.

“History is both the reading and writing we do in school, but also interacting on a deeper level in order for a better understanding,” she said. “Getting outside of the classroom is a very hands-on way to learn from these brave veterans and of mistakes,” such as the Allies failing to attack Germany when it invaded Poland at the beginning of the war or failing to use naval convoys earlier in the war.

Sacred Heart social studies teacher Julie Boyd hoped the trip was informative and enriching for the entire high school.

“The school took the entire high school to the Expo in order to pique their curiosity and encourage them to want to know more about their history,” Boyd said.

Academy of the Sacred Heart seniors Alana Garvey and sophomore Caroline Kavanaugh contributed to this column. 

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