Veteran Perspective: Students Partake in Meaningful Exchange

Reflections Reveal Connections Made


Staff Photo

Students from Mr. Bowen’s Current Events class joined Veterans for a coffeehouse experience that proved beneficial to all involved.

Past Mr. Bowen Students created this video honoring E.O. graduate Robert Hoyt, who died at the age of 21 while serving his country in Iraq in 2004.

Mr. Bowen, Staff Contributor


Current Events students went to the Eastern Connecticut Veterans Coffee House in May to spend time talking and listening to local veterans. Most importantly, participants wanted to express thanks to our veterans for the sacrifices they have made.

I am so very proud of my students who were uncertain of what to expect, but they dove right in and spent meaningful time conversing with veterans about their stories in combat, their return, offerings of advice, personal stories and struggles. I could tell immediately that the veterans absolutely loved that this younger generation took an interest in honoring them. This intergenerational interaction was so meaningful for both our students and the veterans, who welcomed us into their family with ease.. We established many friendships along the way and are looking forward to visiting again very soon. 

Big thanks to students Eric Lemieux, Shawn Alexander, Jack Mattingly, Adam Kelly, Rabeeh Mahmoud, Bella Hamley, Marvin Schlott, Nadia Trueworthy, Josh Dingler, Jacob Hultgren, Toby Keldsen, Lina White for visiting for a truly wonderful day that sits at the very top of my career!

 What some of the students said:

It was a very delightful experience. I was talking to a man named Geno. He told me his story about the time he served in Iraq. How his “buddies” died in front of his eyes, how he managed to keep fighting with a bullet in his shoulder, and how he was able to return to “normal civilian life.” This man was one of the most interesting people I have ever met in my life. He was able to give me a perspective of what it is to fight in a war and be a veteran. I understood the dynamic between all these veterans. They need each other. They help each other. And they would die for each other. I was a part of all this for a few hours. If you would ask me if it was worth it. I can tell you it was.”


 I really enjoyed visiting the veterans. I am naturally a person who loves conversation and meeting new people, so this was right up my alley. I thought it was much more educational to be there than to be in the classroom or read about experiences. It doesn’t have the same effect. You can’t see the real emotion and strength with words the way you do when listening to someone speak. For me it was interesting to see the different personalities in the room. Some veterans were content with sitting in silence and watching, while others were eager to share their stories. Despite this difference, every single one of the veterans were so welcoming and friendly to our class. I could see how much they enjoyed having us there and how grateful they were that we came to thank them – which makes me respect them that much more. I loved seeing the safe environment they have created there. 

At one point one veteran had said he would die for any of the individuals in that room to which many others agreed they would, too.  This shows their true commitment to one another but also their bravery to keep fighting for those that they love and what they believe in. I greatly admire this trait that all these veterans carry even after all they have gone through. It isn’t common that people have dedication to anything the way they do, which I think is so special. 

When one of the veterans had gone up to the podium because it was his first time there, he had mentioned he never saw any action. The response to that was so moving, telling him that it was only a matter of chance that he wasn’t one of the people who saw action and that he was still willing to put his life on the line for his country. That was an eye-opening moment for me. I never would have come up with the thought that one would feel guilt or shame for not seeing action on my own. It really made me understand how many struggles veterans go through on a daily basis that we would never consider. By the end of our trip, I didn’t want to leave. There was still so much more for me to learn and observe. I’m really glad I went and had this experience. Again, I thank all of our veterans for their service and Mr. Bowen for this opportunity.


The field trip has been one of my favorites that I have ever been on because it didn’t even feel like one. I enjoyed being there and didn’t want to leave at the end because of the atmosphere that was around us. Being at the table talking to these veterans who have put their lives on the line for us was so cool. They seemed like they never were appreciated, which bothered me in a way. They were so nice and it somewhat felt like I was at a high school lunch table the way the guys would make fun of each other. Getting to know them was very interesting and created very cool conversations. The guy I talked to was named Clinton, who lived in Mansfield and volunteered for a committee at the community center for 20 years now. They had good advice on school and life, backing up each piece of advice with a story. Another interesting thing was the fact they weren’t much older than us when they decided to put their lives on the line for the country and the people of this country. Clinton was a medic who was an expert with all things x-ray and radiology. He went to school for 24 months straight to be certified with this. Geno had some good stories to tell. His lieutenant left him in battle and he was in a 1v5 situation. He got shot twice in the shoulder, but came out on top and still managed to live. He also got shot in his forearm, where he still has shards of metal inside him. Overall this field trip was amazing and I would do it again every single chance I got. It was an awesome experience.”


I thought that it was really nice to hear other veterans stories. I found out that Dee had a husband that was in the military. I think that she said that he was in the Air Force or Army. He had died, and she was a widow and has been coming to these meetings since they have been in that building. At the end of our field trip when they started showing videos, I had gotten up to go to the bathroom, and she had stopped me and gave me a hug. It was very nice and it made me really happy that I had impacted her enough to want to hug me. It was very welcoming.

I also just liked the vibe there. It made me feel like I was a kid again … when my Dad was more of a military guy, if that makes sense. He used to constantly talk about military stuff, and his time there and over time he just kinda stopped. … Being there with everybody telling their stories reminded me of that time when I was younger. Honestly, I think my Dad could benefit from going to the coffee house, like I think talking about it, and relating to other veterans could be nice for him. I kept thinking about that while I was there.

Something I found funny, though, were the comments on my nose ring because it’s a big nose ring. At the beginning Dante asked me if it hurt, and I told him it did, because well, it did. The second time someone said something about my nose ring was that if I was in boot camp and had it, it would get ripped out. Which made me hold onto my septum ring – not gonna lie. That would hurt so much I can’t even imagine.

I really liked getting to hear other veteran’s stories. It sucks that they are treated the way they are by the government, but I am not surprised because I already have experienced the treatment of veterans from my Dad. Being there reminded me of when I was younger and when my Dad would talk a lot about being in the military, so there was a lot of nostalgia there. I think my Dad would benefit from maybe going to a meeting or two.


The trip was a good learning experience and it taught us more about veterans than anything else could, because we were learning from people with firsthand experience. The veterans were also very talkative and open to conversations with us.