FORT WORTH -- Don Graves remembers when the American flag was raised on Iwo Jima during World War II.
It is something the Marine veteran says he'll never forget.
So Graves was thrilled recently when two grade school students started writing down what it was like to be on the island more than 67 years ago for what would become one of the longest and most intense battles in the Pacific Theater.
"There were two girls, one on my left and one on my right," said Graves, who was 86 when he took a Freedom Flight in May to see the World War II monuments in Washington, D.C. "We talked about the price of things back then, and gradually we got into patriotism, and what sort of a Marine I was back then."
For Bailey Asbill, that was a memorable event.
"You got to talk to someone who was there," she said.
It is that kind of exchange -- the passing of stories and values from one generation to another -- that World War II veterans, Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, educators and airline executives hope to foster during a weekend of events aimed at honoring those who served.
The events kicked off Friday with a Remembering Our Heroes luncheon at the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum in Fort Worth. The meal took on an educational spin when Grapevine-Colleyville Superintendent Robin Ryan announced a new enrichment curriculum using Medal of Honor recipients to teach character building.The curriculum for middle and high school students will include character-building lessons, videos and Skype sessions with Medal of Honor recipients on their experiences and on loyalty, self-sacrifice and service to others.
"When I was contacted about this by the Medal of Honor Foundation, I thought, Who wouldn't want to partner with something like this?" Ryan said.
Mike Thornton of Montgomery is a Vietnam-era Medal of Honor recipient and a retired Navy SEAL who believes that the curriculum can improve academic performance and even keep potential dropouts in school.
"I've seen how it has changed children's lives," Thornton said. "These kids are so hungry for information, and for purpose, and when they get it, it changes their whole attitude."
The program began in Erie, Pa., schools four years ago and has spread to South Carolina, Alabama, Texas and Illinois schools.
Educators Steve and Brenda Nathman of Colleyville Middle School say the veterans' projects have made a difference to students with little connection to World War II.
"I teach American history, and it's the perfect accompaniment to my classroom," Brenda Nathman said. "It's helped the students make that connection that it's a continuing effort to protect those freedoms that were gained during the Revolutionary War."
Steve Nathman said his students in a leadership class still talk about their participation in the sendoff at the airport the day of the flight.
"One of the things we try and teach is that true leadership involves serving others," he said. "These kids were approaching World War II veterans, and those who are currently serving, with strong handshakes."
Their son Will Nathman, an eighth-grader, played his own composition Remembrance on the saxophone during the luncheon. The song was his entry in the creative competition that earned him a seat on the Freedom Flight. Some 1,200 Grapevine and Colleyville students spent spring break this year working on voluntary assignments to try to score one of the 60 student seats on the flight.
Will Nathman was paired with veteran Harold Rider on the flight.
"At first we didn't know what to say to each other," Nathman said, "but by the end of the flight we were cracking jokes with each other."
Other events honoring veterans and Medal of Honor recipients this weekend include the ninth annual American Airlines Sky Ball tonight at the Alliance Airport Maintenance and Engineering Base. Proceeds will go to several organizations that support military families.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657