To bring a little perspective to his students’ lives, Scott Casto organized Living History Day at Noli Indian School, in San Jacinto, California on Friday, May 18 so they could learn about the lives of veterans.
“I spearheaded Living History Day to provide our students with the richest experiences in the best way possible through those who experienced some of the world-changing events in the 20th and 21st centuries,” said Casto in a release, who has taught at the school for the past six years.
About 120 Native American students from tribes throughout the region in grades six through 12 put away their textbooks and rotated around to different classrooms to listen to the life experiences of the different veterans including Bernie Peters and Ray Wilson, who served in World War II; Joe Daily, who served in the Vietnam War; Pete Van Vechten, who served in the Korean War; and Michael Walker and Jon Williams who were in the Persian Gulf and Iraqi wars.
“The best speakers were the World War II veterans who said to us: ‘whatever you put your mind to you can do it, the only thing that stops you is yourself,’” said Jesus Mendoza, a San Juan Southern Paiute 11th grader. “I felt emotional about how all of the veterans had to see their buddies die and how it makes me feel protected that people are overseas fighting for us and our freedoms.”
Daily, a U.S. Marine, shared a slideshow of his life spent in the jungles of Vietnam. Ninth-grader Danielle Razon, a Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian, found Daily relatable based on her own family’s history.
“I really thought he was the most interesting and I wanted to hear about his story the most because my grandfather lost his leg in that war,” she said.
Tenth-grader Eugene Salgado, Pechanga, liked hearing how the veterans handled do-or-die situations.
“It was emotional, especially when the World War II veteran said that you can do whatever you want to do with your life because we had the freedom to do so,” he said.
“Living History Day is a first at Noli and affords the special opportunity for our students to experience those who willfully sacrificed for their country in the most terrible of circumstances for a greater good,” said Casto in the release. “Their acts of bravery should be acknowledged, respected and remembered given the propensity for historical repetition and in light of the perilous times that exist in today’s world.”