Students Pay Their Respects At The Wall


Just when adults are left wondering what's going on in the seemingly self-centered lives of teenagers, the youngsters step up to lead some of the most stirring of tributes.

Last week, with the Vietnam War Memorial at Green Valley Park, students from the Payson School District paid homage to veteran heroes in very special ways.

Coach Dennis Pirch's history classes at PHS took time to pause and reflect at the memorial as did Kathleen Alexander-Young's Rim Country Middle School social studies students.

From my observations during visits to the memorial, the youngsters were there to give the veterans a far greater public reward than they received during their 1970s return from the most controversial war in United States history.

Students showed their respect in a variety of ways --flowers, mementos, prayers, special thoughts and a few quality seconds of gingerly rubbing the inscribed name of a Vietnam veteran.

One youngster approached a middle-aged man starring stoically at the Wall and asked, "Did you serve?"

The man looked up, stalled for a few seconds and whispered "yes."

"That means a lot to me," the smiling youngster said.

Rim Country Middle School eighth-grader Jana Knighton, an honor student and standout Maverick athlete, showed up for school Friday morning with a rose and special poem in hand.

Later that morning at the Wall, she placed the rose directly beneath the name of Marine Pfc. Allen "Fred" Chavez.

At the age of 19 years, the Winslow youngster was killed by enemy fire on May 4, 1967. In Jana's studies at RCMS, she learned the average age of a Vietnam veteran was just over 19 years.

Here is 14-year-old Jana's poem.

I'm in Vietnam, Mom

Well, here I am, sent to Vietnam,

I'm a solder of war, are you proud of me, Mom?

I fear the worst every time I go out to fight,

I try to stay alive with all of my might,

There is death all around me,

Dying people surround me.

The guns, the bombs, and the stench of this place,

The sweat is always running down my face,

I saw the wipe out of innocent children in Mylai,

Was it fair for us to experience that, those people and I?

I shoot my gun at people when I have to,

And thank God that no one is shooting at you.

I'm not sure why I am here,

But, I'll always keep you near.

I'll fight the good fight,

And in the end, Mom, you'll see I'm all right.

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