National Guard teaches history at WJ for a day

Sometimes, learning needs to be three-dimensional.

On Dec. 15, career counselors from the Ohio National Guard delivered that third dimension to students in West Jefferson High School’s American History II classes.

They brought with them not only a PowerPoint presentation on World War II, but also real artifacts from the war. Wool coats and caps, steel canteens, meal ration containers and a helmet were passed from student to student. As a means of comparison, the presenters also passed around gear used by today’s soldiers, like a chest protector, lightweight flak jacket, and freeze dried meals-ready-to-eat.

The World War II presentation is part of the National Guard’s Heritage Outreach Program, a four-part program designed to spark student interest in America’s military history. The other components cover the War of 1812, the Civil War and World War I. Schools choose which war they’d like covered; the National Guard sends instructors and textbooks for each student, free of charge.

The instructors who visited West Jefferson, Cole Derringer and Thomas Fogt, represent the Ohio National Guard. As such, they included in their presentation facts that tie World War II to central Ohio. For instance, the National Guard’s 37th Buckeye Division out of Columbus served in the Pacific Theater. Also, Major General Robert Beightler, for whom Camp Beightler is named in Columbus, was the only National Guard commander out of 32 to lead his troops for the entire duration of World War II. His service included 592 straight days of combat, Fogt said.

The lesson also covered the war’s death toll, the countries involved, the U.S. leaders at the time, economic issues, women’s roles, tactics and technology.

Derringer and Fogt talked to six American history classes over the course of their day in West Jefferson. Their visit is a first for West Jefferson High School. Principal Dave Metz said the presentation was a good fit for the school’s sophomores who are getting ready to study World War II. It’s also a good warm-up for material covered on the Ohio Graduation Test, which students will take this spring.

"My teachers always have the option of bringing in guest speakers. This program looked good to us because it was actual military personnel doing it and they were bringing actual memorabilia," Metz said.

The school made the connection with the Western Ohio Heritage Outreach Pro-gram through Wade Schneider, a Jefferson Local Board of Education member. Schneider found about the program during the Ohio School Boards Association annual conference this fall. For more information about the program, go online to

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