More than 40 fifth-graders listened with rapt attention Monday to a man wearing a tweed coat and American flag tie. As soon as he was done answering one question, several more hands shot into the air.
One student asked if he was drafted or volunteered to be a soldier during World War II.
Another student asked what would have happened if the Germans developed the atomic bomb before the United States did. Sessions allowed that it is difficult to answer hypothetical questions, but offered his opinion.
"If the Germans or the Russians had the atomic bomb, our world history would clearly be much different," he said. "Whether you all would be able to be sitting in this classroom learning what you want to learn is highly debatable."
Sessions was in the fifth-grade class as part of the Saxe Middle School's Veterans Day program. Several veterans visited classrooms and spoke and answered students' questions. For the last 11 years, New Canaan Public Schools has designated the holiday as a school day, during which normal instruction is augmented by visits and presentations from veterans.
Sessions was an engineer working on fire-control radar, which allowed bombers to deposit their weapons accurately, in New Mexico during the war.
In the library, Dahlia Paubionsky told students, who were sitting on the floor in front of her, what it was like to be a woman in the military during World War II. In 1942, Paubionsky said she enlisted in the U.S. Army as soon as she turned 21.
"The kind of things women did were office work, driving, working in hospitals and libraries. That let the men be available to go to the real war," she said.
Eighth-grader Cece Challe said the presentations were interesting and thought-provoking. After hearing last year about a veteran stationed on Greenland during the Vietnam War, she asked her grandfather about his own Vietnam experience, she said.
With the added awareness of the sacrifice of veterans has come added appreciation, Challe said. At lunch time, students had an opportunity to write notes of appreciation to veterans, which are delivered to men and women in the West Haven Veterans Hospital.
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