HOISINGTON — A cross-curricular study aimed at teaching history, English, speech, character qualities, technology and collaborative work, Hoisington High School juniors each studied a Medal of Honor recipient, stirring feelings of patriotism and admiration for American heroes.
“In the past we would have done a research paper,” said Carrie Feist, HHS English teacher. “We wanted to do something innovative with it.”
So not only did the students write a report, they took the project much further.
A Medal of Honor is the highest military award given to individuals who have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy of the U.S.
The students started with Internet links to Medal of Honor web sites last fall. The students focused on individuals from wars up to and including Vietnam.
After writing the research paper, students worked the information into much more, resulting in a better understanding and connection with the winners, according to Feist.
Using the school provided iPads, the students recorded a 1-3 minute video and uploaded the video using an app, or software designed for mobile technology.
By holding a smart phone over the QR code, the report then played for the listener.
The students also worked together to make posters, which lined the halls of the school just in time for spring parent teacher conferences.
One thing that surprised student Brennan Knapp was the bravery of the soldiers. “It’s like going to your death bed, knowing you might die and doing it anyway,” he said.
He studied Sammy L. Davis, an award recipient from the Vietnam War. Davis, a cannoneer with Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Artillery Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, was under heavy mortar attack in 1967 in Vietnam when 1,500 North Vietnamese swarmed the area within 25 meters of U.S. positions.
According to his Medal of Honor citation:
“Detecting a nearby enemy position, Sgt. Davis seized a machine gun and provided covering fire for his gun crew, as they attempted to bring direct artillery fire on the enemy. Despite his efforts, an enemy recoilless rifle round scored a direct hit upon the artillery piece. The resultant blast hurled the gun crew from their weapon and blew Sgt. Davis into a foxhole. He struggled to his feet and returned to the howitzer, which was burning furiously. Ignoring repeated warnings to seek cover, Sgt. Davis rammed a shell into the gun.
Disregarding a withering hail of enemy fire directed against his position, he aimed and fired the howitzer which rolled backward, knocking Sgt. Davis violently to the ground. Undaunted, he returned to the weapon to fire again when an enemy mortar round exploded within 20 meters of his position, injuring him painfully. Nevertheless, Sgt. Davis loaded the artillery piece, aimed and fired. Again he was knocked down by the recoil. In complete disregard for his safety, Sgt. Davis loaded and fired three more shells into the enemy. Disregarding his extensive injuries and his inability to swim, Sgt. Davis picked up an air mattress and struck out across the deep river to rescue three wounded comrades on the far side. Upon reaching the three wounded men, he stood upright and fired into the dense vegetation to prevent the Viet Cong from advancing.
While the most seriously wounded soldier was helped across the river, Sgt. Davis protected the two remaining casualties until he could pull them across the river to the fire support base. Though suffering from painful wounds, he refused medical attention, joining another howitzer crew which fired at the large Viet Cong force until it broke contact and fled. Sgt. Davis’ extraordinary heroism, at the risk of his life, is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.”
Davis received the Medal of Honor the following year. Footage of his awards ceremony was used in the “Forrest Gump” movie with the image of Tom Hank’s superimposed.
Other recipients studied were: William E. Adams, Donald Ballard, Alfred Rascon, Lewis Albanese, Harold Fritz and Jason L. Dunham.
HHS Principal Meg Wilson saw a similar program while attending a conference and was impressed with the curricular content combined with the lessons of personal bravery and self-sacrifice.
The program fit perfectly with the district’s vision to increase the rigor in curriculum as they make intentional efforts to integrate character, said Wilson.
The study meets the College and Career Technical Standards, and the school has entered the project into state character education contests.
Many of the students travelled to Washington D.C. over spring break where they visited the Hall of Heroes.