The nation's war veterans were remembered this month in two different ways by Toledo Public Schools students.
First, members of the National Junior Honor Society at Burroughs Elementary participated in Wreaths Across America on Saturday, December 13, at Toledo Memorial Park in Sylvania.
Burroughs Principal Arlene Tucker said Mrs. Stephanie Dillabaugh, school psychologist and adviser for the National Junior Honor Society, arranged for members to earn service hours "as they paid homage to our deceased military by placing a wreath on individual grave sites."
Then, on Monday, December 15th, social studies students at five TPS high schools - Rogers, Scott, Start, Waite and Woodward - gave eulogies for 33 Toledoans killed in World War II. The students spoke at Waite High School during the Second Annual Fallen Heroes Memorial Assembly.
The semester-long project is the brainchild of Waite High School social studies teacher Joe Boyle, who repeatedly tells his students one thing about their hometown.
“I try to reiterate this to the kids again and again and again: You come from a city of heroes,” Mr. Boyle recently told the Toledo Free Press. “There’s so much negative about Toledo all the time, and it’s hard to find role models that aren’t sullied by something. Every one of these kids has found a way to grab on to these guys from 70 years ago, from the same city, and find something to believe in. It’s my favorite thing about this.”
The students from the five schools – who Mr. Boyle teaches through the distance learning program at TPS – researched 33 men with Toledo roots. They used local and national resources and learned family names and addresses, tracked down information on their school careers at TPS and determined what their career paths were until they joined the military.
They uncovered inspiring tales that ended in heartbreak. Consider these stories:
• Army 2LT Jake Chandler, a 1938 Scott High School graduate, was a state champion high jumper and led Scott to it first state championship in track. He graduated from the University of Toledo with a degree in secondary education in 1940 and joined the Toledo Police Department, one of just a handful of African American officers. After Pearl Harbor, he joined the all African-American unit commonly known as the "Buffalo Soldiers." As an officer, he led his men in battles throughout central Italy until he was killed trying to save another soldier.
• Army Air Force 2LT Tom Dellinger, a DeVilbiss graduate, graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in journalism and became the night cops reporter at the old Toledo Times. He volunteered for the Army Air Force, trained throughout the South as he edited the base papers and yearbooks and then was shipped off to India to fly cargo missions. He qualified for leave to see his daughter, nearly 3, and a two-month-old daughter he had never met – only for the plane to crash near Ledo, India.
• Army Air Force TSGT Harry Brooks was originally from Michigan, moved to Toledo for work and lived near the old Libbey High School. He was the only man killed aboard a B-24 called "Superman” – navigated by Louie Zamperini. The movie of Louie’s time during World War II, based on the book called Unbroken, opens in theaters on Christmas Day. The movie actually has a character named Harry Brooks because the accident aboard the “Superman” triggers all that happens to Mr. Zamperini after he crash lands.
Mr. Boyle hit upon the idea for his project after being part of the Normandy Scholars Institute, sponsored by National History Day. Mr. Boyle and a student from Rogers traveled to George Washington University in Washington, D.C. for a week to study with scholars of World War II and then spent another week in Normandy, France. It was there that students ended their visit by reading graveside eulogies of the veterans they had been studying. Mr. Boyle’s great uncle, Sgt. Paul Boyle, is buried at the cemetery.
Dylan Reed, a Waite senior, studied the life of Harry Brooks, the Toledo resident who died after the crash of the ‘Superman’ plane. A wrestler, Dylan told the Free Press that he admires the mental toughness Brooks showed after sustaining his injuries, holding on for nine days after he was hit in the head with two pieces of shrapnel.
“He obviously didn’t lack the fighting spirit, which makes him a true hero,” Dylan said. “I hope to carry some of that mental toughness with me, to help me get through life, in order to be successful. As a wrestler, you never stop going until you hear the whistle, and that seems like something Harry Brooks would understand.”
Sylvia Rombach, a junior at Waite, studied the life of Baird Brooks Jr., a Waite alum who was rejected from three different branches of the military four times. He died near Rome, in June 1944, days before Rome was liberated by the Allies.
“He never gave up on anything,” she told the Free Press. “I look up to my fallen hero, and I’m fascinated by the fact that he never gave up despite his flaws. I try to do everything with a can-do attitude and do my best in all of my endeavors. He is a great inspiration.”
The students who did the research weren’t the only ones mesmerized by the stories of the fallen Toledoans. Tweets from the event included, “Private Wilbur Campau...described as "giving his all...and that's all that mattered." #goosebumps #tpsproud” and “Brothers from Rogers eulogize Campau brothers who both died in WWII - awesome tribute to our fallen heroes #tpsproud”
Updated on December 19, 2014