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Military vets address Otwell eighth-graders
Richard Knight talks to Otwell Middle School students about his experience in the Air Force while serving in Vietnam. - photo by Jennifer Sami

CUMMING — Having learned about various conflicts involving the United States, eighth-graders at Otwell Middle School got to hear Wednesday from some of the men who fought to protect their country.

During a special assembly, World War II veteran Pat Patterson, Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm veteran John Kepler and Vietnam veterans Garvin Fellows and Richard Knight shared their war experiences with students.

The discussion spiked the interest of student Matthew Torres, who stayed afterward to talk with the men. Torres’ father served in the Navy during Desert Storm.

“It was really cool. I love hearing all the older stories about how their experiences in the war were different then then they are now because of all of the technology advances,” said Torres, who aspires to join the Marines after high school. “I love hearing those stories. It’s cool just to keep them alive.”

Melissa Sessa, eighth-grade Georgia history teacher at the school, said she organized the event to make sure students got a “firsthand perspective of what it was like to serve in the military.”

“They learn about all sorts of different wars, but it’s different when they read about it or when we talk about it as opposed to when somebody who’s actually served in the military comes in,” she said.

All four men are members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post. Knight said he likes to be a part of teaching students because “we like to instill in them patriotism.”

“Most of us went to war to protect the United States,” he said. “And it’s just about them appreciating veterans and what veterans do for them ... I want to be able to communicate what veterans are, what we’ve done and that we care for them.”