NORTH HAVEN — For 12 years, North Haven High School students have heard firsthand accounts of some of the nation’s most notable points in history in a program called “Eyewitness to History.”
This year, the speakers covered the Vietnam, Bosnia, and Iraq wars, the Woodstock music festival and attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Our school community has been fortunate to listen to so many passionate, interesting guest speakers over the years,” teacher and organizer Federico Fiondella said.
First Selectman Michael Freda, Superintendent of Schools Patrick Stirk and High School principal Russell Dallai made appearances and opening remarks.
“When (I was) at school we read about history through books. Today you have the opportunity to see individual storybooks come alive,” Freda said.
Don Deloge, a retired North Haven High School teacher and principal, told students about his experiences during the Vietnam War, including the death of fellow soldiers and life on a Naval aircraft carrier. Deloge explained that he was advised not to wear his uniform on the commercial flight home because of the negative feelings towards the war.
“You can hate the war, but don't take it out on the warrior,” Deloge said, adding that he never experienced the hate directly, but felt the general negativity.
Allan Meyer shared his experience as a captain and intelligence officer during the Vietnam War through his photographs.
“That's what it looked like, what it felt like, how we felt to be on the ground,” he said. “Your job is to accomplish the mission and take care of the men and it's all consuming, all the time. You don't have time to worry or be tired or be scared.”
Meyer later returned to the stage to talk about his experiences as a speech writer to President Ronald Reagan, sharing anecdotes about the former president.
North Haven Middle School teacher and coach Brent Heidenis, talked about his deployment to Bosnia in the early 2000s to help the country stabilize after civil war. Heidenis told students he knew little about the country and the genocide it faced. He was later deployed to serve in Iraq as well.
“To me, (Bosnia) was a very rewarding tour and it was one that I personally believe in, I thought it was a great opportunity to help people heal and become a country,” said Heidenis, who served as a master sergeant in the Army National Guard.
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