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Riverview honors vets through documentary
Documentary pic
Teacher Maria Faircloth overlooks seventh grade student Luke Ellis as he researches Vietnam War history in the media center at Riverview Middle last week. - photo by Chelsea Thomas Dawson Community News

Seventh-grade students at Riverview Middle School have begun a semester-long project to interview veterans about their experiences during the Vietnam War.

Inspired by the 61 names listed on the Dawsonville Wall of Honor at Veterans Memorial Park, Maria Faircloth's gifted language arts class is calling the documentary "More than a Name on the Wall."

The class is asking all willing Vietnam veterans and nurses to share their experiences with them for the documentary.

"We see the names on the wall, but we don't know how to get in contact with them," Faircloth said.

Faircloth's class began the project by researching Vietnam War statistics, figures and historical anecdotes, as well as viewing archived government and private citizen's photo galleries online.

"We are just beginning the project and next week each student will have to choose one particular Vietnam veteran [from the wall] to write a research paper," Faircloth said.

According to Faircloth, the project merges the student's language arts, reading, social studies and technology curriculums. It will also give them the chance to learn and practice various software when they compile the footage.

"Everybody will have a part in it whether it be filming, adding animation and words or being the anchors," Faircloth said. "But we cannot do this without the help of the community."

For five students in the class who have relatives who served in the Vietnam War the project carries a special significance.

Student Luke Ellis's grandfather, Lee Ellis, is of particular interest. According to Faircloth, many students have already decided to write their research papers on him.

"I have just figured out my grandfather was in Vietnam and he was a POW," Ellis said. "He never talks about it, but it is interesting to know he went through these experiences that we are learning about."

Lee Ellis, a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has been honored for numerous acts of courage and bravery.

In March, he is expected to be releasing a book about his experiences titled "Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton."

"Hanoi Hilton" refers to Hoa Lò Prison, a jail used by North Vietnam for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War.

Many other students are eager to learn more about America's military history.

Fourteen students in the class have had a family member serve in the armed services at some point.

"A lot of my family has served. My brother is currently serving in the Marines," said student Savannah Hughes.

One student wants the documentary to be a tool to help educate others about the war.

"My grandfather fought in the Vietnam War but I am not that educated yet on it, and neither are a lot of other kids my age. So this project means learning more and educating other children so they know and appreciate what the veterans did," said Sophie Holley.

According to Faircloth, the film is tentatively set to be screened on Memorial Day. It is teen-geared in the hope that younger audiences will want to learn more about their country's history.

"In the end we are hoping this documentary will be a legacy for the Vietnam veterans' families and children," Faircloth said.

For veterans interested in being interviewed for the documentary, contact Faircloth at (678) 315-2008.

The class asks veterans to bring any photos, medals of honor, paraphernalia or gear they may have from the war to the interviews.