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Veteran makes war come alive for students

fighting December 25, 1996
Web posted at: 9:15 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Ed Garsten

HOLLY, Michigan (CNN) -- More than two decades after it ended, the Vietnam War remains an enigma not only for those who lived through it, but also for those who were not yet born.

So Joe Mischler is trying to do more than lecture about the war in the history class he teaches. After all, he saw it firsthand.

Mischler is trying to bridge the gap for the younger generation, and make them see why it should matter to them.


"Being a veteran, especially a veteran of Vietnam, I feel that veterans have an obligation to either teach or explain or talk to the next generation about war, because war is forever," Mischler said.

The high school students appear to be learning the lessons of the war, through veterans' twice-weekly visits to class and through homework that includes finding veterans and interviewing them.

"Every speaker that came in so far, it seems like the war changed their life -- how has the war changed your life?" one young man asked veteran Gary Huber, who served with Mischler.

"By going through the military and going to Vietnam, I realized that I wanted something more than working in an assembly line for the rest of my life," Huber told the students.


Mischler's hands were severely injured when a mortar shell he was holding was hit by a bullet. The memories he shares are just as lasting, and as scarring.

"I can remember standing next to this armored personnel carrier, and there were bodies all over the place," Mischler recalled.

The students say what had been just a collection of facts in a book is now part of their personal history.

"It was a big part of everybody's life in that generation, and it's all a big part of ours," one young woman said.

"You feel what they feel," a young man explained. "It brings it to life for you ... instead of reading in a book [that] 3,000 were killed."

Another young man summed up the relevance of studying the war for students and veterans alike.

"Because it still affects a lot of people today."


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