MID RIVERS CHAPTER 458 IN ST. PETERS, MISSOURI
In The Schools
BY BUTCH WHITWORTH
For more than two decades Mid Rivers Chapter 458 in St. Peters, Missouri, has been educating local citizens about the Vietnam War. In the beginning, long-standing member Wendell Webb presented a history lesson at a middle school. Soon afterward, other schools issued invitations. Very quickly, Len Berkel, Jerry Bradly, and Bev Frecks got involved. More than twenty-five members have participated over the years. Although the program originated in the middle schools, the emphasis has shifted to high school students because they interact more with VVA members.
Len Berkel took charge of gathering together Vietnam War paraphernalia. With the help of other chapter members, he assembled a display of Vietnam War equipment and memorabilia that became an important adjunct to an evolving countywide education program. The exhibit includes photographs and illustrations, maps, weaponry, a parachute, and C-rations. Other items in the vast collection include two M16s, an M60, a .45-caliber pistol, RPGs, a claymore mine, artillery shells, punji sticks, a PRC10 working radio, and a list of all the names on The Wall.
At each school presentation, participating members from each branch of the military introduce themselves and tell where they served and with what unit. They also describe their jobs and present short recollections of their personal war experiences. Students handle the nonfunctional equipment, and volunteers are invited to try on field gear. Members describe how the equipment was used in the field. Finally, Chapter 458 members answer students’ questions. Most frequently, students ask about the weapons used in combat and the duties performed in Vietnam.
The chapter’s Vietnam War display continues to grow and improve every year. In addition to its use in the classroom, the display has been exhibited several times in the St. Peters City Hall for Armed Forces Day, during local Fourth of July parades, picnics, and at other community events. It has been well received and continues to grow in interest and popularity.
Fort Zumwalt North High School in O’Fallon, Mo., hosts Chapter 458’s exhibit every Veterans Day; the culinary arts class prepares lunch for chapter members. The Francis Howell School provides presenters with lunch on the day that the chapter has its annual program. In May 2012 Chapter 458 presented a copy of the famous Reflections print to the school, where it is on permanent display.
For additional information about Mid River Chapter 458 and its programs, contact Chapter President Len Berkel at P.O. Box 16, St. Peters, MO 63376.
Submitted by vva on June 26, 2013 - 6:08pm