Dayton High School students join the effort to preserve World War II veterans' stories

Several dozen veterans attended an assembly at Dayton High School to kick off Veterans Legacies, a program to preserve memories of World War II veterans. (KATU)

There was an honor guard. Speeches. Patriotic music. But most of all, veterans.

Preserving veteran stories -- especially World War II veterans -- is an important and timely job with a sense of urgency.

Every day -- more than 300 World War II vets die -- their memories and stories lost forever.

But passing down those stories can give them new life.

Earlier this week the Oregon-based group Veteran Legacies brought its Mighty Endeavor educational effort to students at Dayton High School.

“What we're doing here today is we're launching an initiative called the Mighty Endeavor, which is geared directly towards World War II veterans,” said Mark Browning, executive director of Veterans Legacies. “We're losing so many every day, we want to collect those stories and preserve that history as quickly as possible.”

Browning, a combat veteran and bronze star recipient for his actions in Helmand province in Afghanistan, says the assembly was all about connecting students with veterans.

“We're engaging students with veterans, and they're actually learning skills such as interpersonal communication, investigative journalism,” Browning said. “How to talk to a veteran, how to talk to an older person."

More than 152,000 Oregonians served in World War II, but the veterans who came to the high school also served in Korea and Vietnam, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Junior Melaney Wilson didn't even know her grandfather Kenneth Wilson, a Marine Corps veteran, was coming.

“All of his stories and everything are so amazing and so powerful,” she said. “It's actually a very emotional experience for me because my family is all veterans, they all served in wars and everything.”

As if to illustrate the fact that World War II veterans are a vanishing breed, the sole veteran from that war in attendance was Navy veteran Fred Hisaw.

“I'm glad to see the students come because I've had some ask me, elsewhere, 'What did you do? Oh, there was a war?’” Hisaw said. “They should know to appreciate what has been going on.”

Several schools other than Dayton High School are bringing the Mighty Endeavor program into their classrooms. Officials say teachers and parents have been overwhelmed by the students' response to the program.

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