GRAPEVINE -- Grapevine-Colleyville students and their World War II mentors started a mission to share history Monday night at a "Celebration of Freedom" that began with school Superintendent Robin Ryan parachuting from a helicopter.
Sixty students and 60 veterans will take to the air on May 24 for World War II Freedom Flight 2011, a daylong trip to Washington to see the World War II, Korea and Vietnam memorials. They'll also visit Arlington National Cemetery.
But first, on Monday at Grapevine High School, hundreds of people crowded the gym and overflowed into the audiorium to hear patriotic songs, a combined band from Grapevine and Colleyville Heritage high schools, and addresses by recent Medal of Honor recipient retired Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, and Mary Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Students and veterans met at dinner in the school cafeteria, exchanging handshakes and hugs as their families looked on.
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Bob Milwee, 88, of North Richland Hills, joined up in 1942 when he was 19 and made a career in the Air Force. He served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, first piloting C-47 troop carriers and finally B-52 bombers.
"I was telling them that I'm a history buff," Milwee said, indicating his two student traveling partners, Maddie Selinger and Meredith Zeledon.
"My geography teacher told me about it, and I thought the whole concept was exciting," said Selinger, 15, a freshman at Colleyville Heritage who said she didn't know much about World War II. "I definitely think I'm going to learn a lot more."
Meredith, 11, a fifth-grader at Silver Lake Elementary, won her spot with a multimedia video.
"I thought it was a great opportunity to meet these wonderful veterans," she said.
Monday's event and Freedom Flight 2011 on May 24 are funded by American Airlines and other sponsors. Lisa Arpey, wife of American CEO Gerard Arpey, is program leader for World War II Freedom Flight.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657