A group of young teens now has a much better idea of what the Vietnam War was like for Belleville’s forgotten heroes.
Belleville Middle School eighth grade students in Dawn Buccino’s English classes recently studied about the Vietnam War and its impact on Belleville in the 1960s and 1970s.
Buccino said she took a lesson she had been teaching for the last three years based on the story “Stop the Sun” by Gary Paulsen, which is about a Vietnam War veteran who struggles with his memories of war.
She also used the book “Belleville Sons Honor Roll - Remembering the Men Who Paid For Our Freedom.”
The book documents the stories of 157 Belleville men who died while in service. To add even more realism, Buccino included “Belleville Sons,” written by Buccino’s husband, local author Anthony Buccino.
Social Studies teacher Anthony Ferrara taught his Vietnam War unit ahead of schedule to coincide with Buccino. Research included Agent Orange, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Protest Songs, Vietnam War Memorials, and POW and MIA organizations.
Students could interview a Vietnam veteran if they wanted. They also got to create their own activity, with options that included poetry, writing and performing Vietnam War protest songs. Other options were critiquing art work of that period, and looking into their own family to do biographies on family members who served in war.
The closing project was the biggest hit, Dawn Buccino said. Each student was assigned one of the eleven “Belleville Sons” who died in Vietnam. Students created a poster honoring their “hero.”
Anthony Buccino spoke to the students and demonstrated how to navigate the Belleville Sons website. The closing project was then turned into a poster contest with a winner in each of Dawn Buccino’s five classes.
The assignment was called the “Spirit of Belleville Sons” poster contest, and Anthony Buccino was given what he called the very difficult job of judge.
“It was difficult choosing one poster over another, and to choose the most moving poster from five separate classes was no small task,” Buccino said. “In all the classes I saw that these students got to know these men nearly as well as I have by writing about them. It’s comforting to know that more than 42 years after the last Belleville Vietnam War casualty, these students are learning about the sacrifice of their neighbors.”
He said that some of the students took photographs of where the soldiers lived in town.
“Outside of the fallen soldiers’ families and the veterans who will never forget, now, these students will always remember their hero,” Buccino said.
Buccino said his goal for the whole project was to make students understand the cost of freedom and remember the 11 men, many of whom sat in the same classrooms when the middle school building was Belleville High School.
He said that the students began to take their job to honor their man very personally. They learned where their man lived, how old each was, where, when and how they were killed.
When the posters were presented, the students talked of their “guy” as if they actually knew him, Buccino said.
The poster contest winners were:
- Krystal Diaz and Breeyanah Gee-Burney
- Madeline Bini
- Leticia Orgueira
- Amy Trinh
- Veronica Alvarado
Each child received an autographed copy of the Belleville Sons Honor Roll book with Anthony Buccino’s thanks for helping to keep the memory of these 11 men alive.
One poster for each of the 11 Belleville Sons will be on display in the hallway outside of the middle school main office in May for Memorial Day.
“I am very pleased that in our own small way, the students of Belleville Middle School brought our Belleville Sons “home,” Buccino said.
The eleven Belleville sons who died in the Vietnam War are:
- Helder DaSilva, Killed In Action (KIA) Feb. 7, 1966
- John Hoar, KIA Feb. 13, 1966
- Lance Corp. Jerry Donatiello, KIA Nov. 20, 1967
- Roger Crowell, KIA Jan. 31, 1968
- Donald Saunders, KIA March 4, 1968
- Raymond DeLuca, KIA June 27, 1968
- Corp. Frank Cancelliere, KIA March 15, 1969
- Lt. Col. Alfred Barnes, KIA May 12, 1969
- Corp. Paul Nelson, KIA May 31, 1969
- Capt. William Branch, KIA June 6, 1970
- and Carl Mickens, KIA July 4, 1970