Students get to hold history through donated war items



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WALTON, Ind. (AP) — History has come to life for some Lewis Cass Jr.-Sr. High School students.

The school received anonymous museum donations this month of World War I and World War II artifacts, including uniforms and helmets used in combat. History teacher Matt Barnett's room houses the items.

"I think it lets people see history, instead of just reading about it," Barnett said. "It actually gives them like a touch."

Barnett showed the items to his world history class recently. He's finishing up the school year teaching students about World War II and thought using the donated items would be a great way to keep students interested with few weeks left in the year.

Students saw a steel helmet from World War I — at least 97 years old — a World War II M1 helmet, a World War II U.S. Navy uniform and hat, also known as a Cracker Jack outfit, a World War II formal officer dress and a small Garrison cap. The World War II items are more than 70 years old.

Freshman Casey Crozier tried on the M1 helmet, which he said felt heavy on his head. Crozier plays baseball and said the war helmet outweighed a batting helmet. However, he said, they do have one similarity.

"Both protect your head," Casey said.

Barnett said rather than students just reading about the wars in a textbook, actually seeing — or in Casey's case, wearing — history makes it come to life.

"They can see it, it makes it real. Instead of just a movie," Barnett said. "Trying to keep the past alive, that's my goal."

Right now, Barnett said the school's history teachers can use the items in class, but at some point, he said they might try to display the artifacts in order to preserve them for the future.

The museum wanted to dedicate the items to a school in order to give it to a wider and different audience, Barnett said, like students learning about those times in history during classes.

"It also honors our generations, because these are our grandfathers," Barnett said, "and so I've been trying to stress to kids, these are your granddads that went through this stuff."

Barnett's wife's great uncle, Ervin L. Eickelberger, died in World War II when he was attempting to cross the Rhine River in Germany. Eickelberger died at the age of 19, just a year or so after graduating from high school.

Eickelberger, originally from the city of Paoli in southern Indiana, received the Purple Heart posthumously for his service in the war. Barnett showed the students the award as well as a suitcase with all of his keepsakes, including pictures and letters he sent back home.

"I think it's cool because his whole life is in a trunk," Barnett said. "So what are we going to leave behind?"

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Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune, http://bit.ly/1Pf7bAm

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Information from: Pharos-Tribune, http://www.pharostribune.com

This is an AP Exchange story offered by the (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Ben Middelkamp - (logansport) Pharos-Tribune

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