History classes create book to honor veterans

A special way to honor our Altoona Veterans.


Canva Illustration by Destiny Montgomery

Honoring. Each biography has different pictures that relate to each person. All of the students are proud to do this for the veterans and their families.

Destiny Montgomery, Reporter

For the past two months, History students who have James Lowe and Carolyn Kline, have been working on biographies for WWII veterans who passed away during the war. 

The interesting thing about these veterans, is that all of them were from, or currently living in Altoona, Pa.

“I did a similar project two years ago on the Vietnam War about the men from Altoona who were killed in that war,” Lowe said. “It [the project] was different in two ways. One, there were only 32 men from Altoona in that war [Vietnam] compared to over 300 in World War II. Second, the students did videos for the men in Vietnam instead of writing a biography.”

Kline and Lowe decided to work together and after a lot of ideas, they came up with the biography idea.

“Mr. Lowe and myself, along with some other teachers, were invited to be part of a pilot group called PBL (Project Based Learning). We attended meetings, were given two books to read on the idea and were given the directive to come up with an idea for a project to utilize this school year as a pilot program. Mr. Lowe and I decided to work together and after some various ideas, he proposed that we create a book of Altoona veterans who were killed in World War II to honor them. This year will be the 75th anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe Day), which was May 8, 1945,” Kline said.

They designed the project with multiple goals in mind for the students to learn about.

“First, it teaches students the more important skill of research. Especially research on the internet where there is such a variety of sources and information available. Second, students will employ formal writing skills in their biography. Finally, since this year is the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, it’s a way of honoring and remembering those that made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and victory,” Lowe said.

It’s a way of honoring and remembering those that made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and victory.”

— James Lowe

Each student in the classes was assigned a specific number of biographies with a checklist of rules and things that each biography should have in it. If a student knew one of the veterans or was related to one of them, they were given the chance to do the biography on them.

“His five American Studies classes, and my two classes were each assigned two to three people to research and create a one to two-page biography to create the book. In total, there are over 3oo people from Altoona who gave the supreme sacrifice in World War II, and we definitely wanted to honor each and every one of them,” Kline said.

The students used the library to access old yearbooks and online sources such as the Altoona Public Library Newspaper Archives and Ancestry.com.

“Mrs. Lucas was able to secure library cards for us to help with the online research. Right now we are in the middle of reviewing student submissions because we want this book to be done correctly before publication,” Kline said.

The project means a lot to the teachers for different reasons.

“This project means a lot to both of us. Mr. Lowe is very involved in the Blair County Historical Society and is obviously a history buff, particularly with World War II. And although I am not from Altoona, I had an uncle who died in World War II, so I have a personal connection,” Kline said

A lot of students also have personal connections.

“This project shows honor to the people who have died and I am proud of what we are doing. My dad is a veteran and one of my two paps died at Pearl Harbor, so it means a lot to me that we are honoring these fallen soldiers from our home town,” sophomore Gavin Lamborn said.

The history teachers all teach in different ways to help the students understand and make personal connections.

“As teachers, we always try to bring history ‘alive’ to the students and make those personal connections, and this book is doing that. We have people from Altoona who were at Pearl Harbor when it got attacked, who parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, who were on the U.S.S. Indianapolis that got sunk by a Japanese torpedo and many who were involved in the battle of the Bulge,” Kline said. “I have heard my students make comments like, ‘Man, he was only 19’ or ‘Awe, he had a wife and little kids’ or ‘Wow, he lived on my street!’ It’s comments like that, that make the project worthwhile”

It’s comments like that, that make this project worthwhile.”

— Carolyn Kline

A lot of people think that honoring our veterans is important.

“I think honoring our veterans is very important and even more so honoring those that died serving their country,” Lowe said.

The completion date for the project is set for May 8 because it is the anniversary of V-E day.

“Publication of the material as a book is on hold because of everything being closed. We are examining the option of posting them online,” Lowe said.

According to Kline, they plan on having copies of the book available in the school library, and the public library, and they also proposed doing a public presentation.

“Of course, that now depends on the COVID-19 closures, but I think the community would be impressed with what AAHS students have done,” Kline said.