Veterans Tell Their Amazing Stories
This past March Mercy High School Burlingame was pleased to welcome six war veterans. These decorated Vets had served our country in WWII, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam. The girls were treated to some amazing stories of self sacrifice and of just what makes America great. Most of these men, were either underage just barely of age when the joined up to serve their country.
Last year, Aisling Horgan '17, was in Susan Roughgarden's US History class and she interviewed Jack McCloskey for an oral history assignment. Mr. McCloskey is quite a remarkable character and had an extraordinary career as a firefighter in San Francisco, and is a leader in the Bay Area Catholic community. He went to Riordan High School and is one of its most celebrated alumni. In fact, this year he opened the St. Patrick's Day luncheon in San Francisco and gave the invocation and other prayers in Gaelic. During his time in the service he was a Sergeant in the 1st Marines and he acted as the MC for this event as he is a storyteller extraordinaire!
Lt. Col. John Stevens, U.S. Marines, was at Pearl Harbor when the planes flew overhead. He fought throughout WWII, and also went back and fought in Korea. He is the 2nd VP of the Korean War Memorial Foundation (KWMF). The KWMF recently (August 1 2016) had the Ribbon Cutting of a Korean War Memorial at the Presidio of San Francisco. This was the culmination of a seven year effort. The KWMF is now embarked on a mission to educate the public about the Forgotten War. The San Francisco Unified School District has just approved incorporating curriculum about the Korean War into their syllabi."
Chief Johnny JonGordon spoke about WWII and the battles fought in the Pacific and the Leyte Operations and Luzon Attacks in December 1944. He explained to the girls how the battle of Guadalcanal was a major turning point of World War II as it prevented the possible lss of Henderson field, and thus saved Australia from the planned invasion. It marked the beginning of victory in the Pacific for the United States. Mr. Jongordon is the Founder of the USS San Francisco Memorial Foundation which was established in 1996 and has a monument out at Lands End commemorating the USS San Francisco and its men.
Doc Barker, joined the Navy as a Medic and was commissioned over to the Marines during the Korean Conflict. As Navy medic, he spoke to the girls about the challenges of medical triage and saving lives during enemy fighting and explained how in Korea it was all about taking the hill on the punchbowl and how the conflict was fought vertically and not horizontally.
Mike Belmiesseri was a tanker in Vietnam. He was barely 18 when he signed up and he spoke to the girls about the challenges of fighting in a conflict that people didn't understand and how hard it was for those returning Vets. He explained that without our help, communism would have overrun the country and that the world might be a much different place and that the United States did what it had to do to keep us all safe.
Everyone in the audience was mesmerized by each Vet's story and at the end, there was a standing ovation. Upon leaving, many of the girls lined up to shake hands with the Vets and to say "Thank You for your Service" to keep us and all Americans safe.