For the students of Van Cleve Elementary School, history took on a very personal dimension during a November veteran presentation.
Vietnam helicopter pilot Bob Allen, an Ohio’s Hospice of Miami County volunteer, was the speaker at the Veteran Recognition Breakfast held at Van Cleve. During his presentation, Allen described flying on Christmas Day in 1969, with a picture of Santa painted on the nose of his helicopter. He was flying into a combat zone to resupply Special Forces soldiers and to deliver Christmas dinner to them.
That simple mission turned into a firefight throughout the day. Allen’s helicopter made numerous resupply flights to deliver much needed ammunition and to rescue the wounded. Following his story, Martin Gibson, the father of one of the students, stepped forward to share another side of the story. Martin’s grandfather, George, was a Vietnam veteran wounded in the firefight that day.
As a child, Martin heard his grandfather’s story about hearing the blades of a helicopter and knowing he would be rescued. He would describe to his son, and grandson, the image of Santa Claus on the nose of the chopper that flew him out of the battle on Christmas day. Martin had not yet been born, nor even conceived. He thanked Mr. Allen for saving his grandfather, and noted that if not for this bravery, neither he, nor his father would have been born, nor would his sixth grade child.
The heartfelt hug between the two at the end of the activities was a powerful real life lesson for students on the impact that individual acts can have on history.