The Patriot

Beyond the Book: Feed The Heroes

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Beyond the Book: Feed The Heroes

Maria Monaco and Jordan Larrabee

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On Friday, March 15th, Mendham High School was fortunate enough to have its hallways touched by soles of shoes that walked the frozen roads in Germany or the muddy pathways in the Vietnam jungle, to hear voices that have once yelled commands out in the chaos of open fire, to look into eyes that have seen inhumanity beyond comprehension. Mendham High School was fortunate enough to give back to the heroes who have given and continue to give so much.

Juniors in all level English classes recently read Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, a collection of vignette styled short stories labeled as fictitious recounting memories of the Vietnam War. O’Brien’s work after meeting its end in the pages of students’ journals and classroom discussions was transformed into a tangible project designed to commemorate society’s often unsung heroes and the point of focus of the book- soldiers. Students, in collaboration with the faculty from the English department, local veterans associations, and restaurants, planned the evening. “Feed The Heroes” grew from an idea stemming from the pages of O’Brien’s book to an event publicized around the county. As the event began to take shape, the general outline was decided: a World War Two veteran speaker followed by a formal dinner for the soldiers and their families.

Around 6 o’clock pm, the veterans and their families began arriving to the patriotic decorations adopted as a manner of welcome in the high school’s lobby. Red, white, and blue balloons, streamers, and paper brown bags were strewn across the lobby by students coming either directly after school or after sports to dedicate their time. The feeling of appreciation cannot be emphasized enough, however, it came from the opposite spectrum than expected. Where the students were compelled to express their gratitude to the veterans for their sacrifices, the veterans themselves fell short of over-praising the students for their efforts. Offering themselves for pictures with the students in front of the photo booth wall or offering their stories to ears prepared to listen, the veterans were overwhelmed with the attention, dedication, and passion exhibited by Mendham’s “Feed The Heroes” volunteers.

Robert R. Max, World War Two veteran and the guest speaker of the evening, shared his story- one of such luck and inhumanity it was consistently hard to render it true. Emphasizing the importance of resilience of the human spirit, crediting his survival to luck, and epitomizing the reality that life changes within seconds- in his case from being a fraternity member in college to a German war prisoner bedding himself on a frozen road with dreams of meals that went unfulfilled. Despite the veteran’s age of 95 years old, he was just as articulate as someone in their 70s, commenting humorously on often being mistaken for being much younger because of his independence, healthy appearance, and vivid recollection of war memories. At Max’s final words, the crowd erupted in a standing ovation only to be met by Max, attempting to stand up, clapping back at the audience- a gesture of humbleness and gratitude similar to the behavior of the veterans throughout the evening.

Following the incredibly moving stories given by Max, the audience transitioned into the elaborately decorated cafeteria. Food that was generously donated by multiple local restaurants filled the tables. Members of the community and the surrounding region flocked to the event to offer their support. Students eagerly waited in expansive lines to greet the veterans, all of which were dispersed throughout the room each offering up personal stories of extraordinary bravery, heroism, and patriotism. This event provided an opportunity to show the members of our community the beauty in the stories held by these honorable men and women who left the safety of their homes to protect the lives of civilians.  Perhaps in today’s political climate of such conflicting views on so many issues, this event stands out as a rare opportunity to come together entirely to celebrate the sacrifices made by these heroes.

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About the Writers
Maria Monaco, Associate Editor- Center

Maria Monaco is currently a 16-year-old junior at Mendham High School. She is originally from Brazil, living in São Paulo for seven years until moving...

Jordan Larrabee, Staff Writer

Jordan Larrabee is a current Junior at Mendham High School. Jordan is a member of Mendham's journalism class and write for the paper, The Patriot. He chose...

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Beyond the Book: Feed The Heroes