BAXTER -- Jacqueline VandenBergh's fifth-grade class at Baxter Elementary School was in for a big treat Friday.
The class met at Baxter City Park for a lesson about Memorial Day by Minnesota Army National Guard Maj. Bill VandenBergh. The presentation was given to teach students the importance and the history behind Memorial Day.
"(Students) should be respectful and appreciative of the freedoms they have," Jacqueline said. "They need to know there are people working for their freedom."
Maj. VandenBergh treated the class to camouflage face paint, Army food and the overall favorite, a ride in an Army Humvee.
"The Humvee ride was my favorite part. I got to sit in the front seat where there are a lot of gadgets," said student Nick Ghinter.
The military officer also treated his wife's class to Meals Ready to Eat. An MRE is a complete meal in a bag. He opened a meal that included pork chops, applesauce, pound cake, crackers and cheese spread. The food is dehydrated and high in calories, each meal consisting of 3,000 to 4,000 calories.
"Soldiers need a lot of calories when they're moving through the fields," Bill said.
The students tried on Guard gear, complete with a helmet and ammunition vest. When Bill broke out the camouflage face paint, students' excitement intensified. Many of the youths described the paint as "crayons for your face" that looked like grass stains.
"It feels like I have a mask on and it's stuck to my face," Elizabeth Belgum said.
The importance of Memorial Day was emphasized by telling the class 1 million people died in wars dating back to 1776, half of which were in World War II.
"The important piece (of this event) is the Memorial Day connection," said Terry Hermanson, Baxter Elementary School principal. "We want (students) to know there is far more depth to Memorial Day than face paint and fatigues."
Bill asked the students if they knew any war veterans and hands shot into the air. Grandfathers, uncles and even fathers of Baxter fifth-graders dedicated their lives to this country.
"I learned what they do in the Army and I want to join. I want to follow my grandpa's tradition," said student Cole Maier.
This is the second year Jacqueline's fifth-grade class has observed the Memorial Day presentation.
"I want to teach the importance of Memorial Day so my students have a better appreciation for the holiday," Jacqueline said.
"My wife brings a lot of world learning experience to her teaching," Bill said.
After serving two years in Brainerd's 1st Battalion, 194th Armor, Headquarters Company, Bill is being transferred to the 34th Infantry Division headquarters in Rosemount. He has been reassigned to help prepare for a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia in 2003.
"Moving is part of being a soldier. National Guard people move," Bill said.
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