Veterans bring first-hand experience to Kenosha students

KENOSHA — Veterans from four military branches are helping high school students in southeast Wisconsin bring their life experiences to modern conflicts.

Ten veterans from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air force and Marines participated in Thursday’s “conversation cafe,” one of four planned for more than 100 sophomores in Melissa Thomas’ social studies classes at Harborside Academy, the Kenosha News reported.

The face-to-face talks with veterans give the Kenosha students a first-person perspective on chapters such as the Persian Gulf War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The series will also include veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam throughout the semester.

“I think bringing veterans in who did experience these conflicts makes it real to (students),” Thomas said. “They get to talk to those who saw it first-hand.”

Army Sgt. Monique Goens is a Kenosha recruiter who was deployed in the Middle East for “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Her military occupational specialty was being a paralegal.

Goens described family life and emotional toll that can come with being separated. She spoke of how her high school-aged son had seen news of an explosion in Iraq during her deployment.

“That was the hardest part for me, my kids being older and knowing exactly why I was over there,” she said.

Thomas said the semester will end with a video project in which students produce documentaries with first-hand interviews with veterans. The videos will be presented to veterans during a May 29 special banquet.