Student and veteran share special bond

Danielle Shay, a student who is part of Communities at Oshkosh North High School, is just one of the many examples of school and community working together to expand learning and experiences for our students and our community.

Danielle’s class was working on a Veteran project to learn and understand about significant events, people and ideas shaping the United States. With the understanding that students would be partnered with a local veteran from WWII, Korean or Vietnam Wars, students prepared by reading about that time in history and how events had effects on the United States and the rest of the world.

To connect with community and to make learning relevant, Julie Dumke, OASD’s Community-Based Coordinator, partnered with Evergreen Retirement Community, the Senior Center, VFW, and the Honor Flight to locate veterans. Danielle was paired with Ralph Reichenberger, a WWII vet from the 32nd Infantry. The two had an instant bond as both Ralph and Danielle shared a passion for music and play multiple instruments. Ralph opened up to Danielle about his experiences traveling overseas in the Philippines and Australia, and Danielle was able to make meaningful connections with all she had researched, read and studied. Danielle learned about the war but even greater, she created a relationship that enriched her life. For Ralph, Danielle was the breath of fresh air that gave him energy. His family shared with Danielle that she made a great impact on his life and it was the happiest they had seen him in years.

Ralph smiled from ear to ear when Danielle interviewed him and was overjoyed when she shared his story at a red carpet event where students, veterans, and their families/friends of the veterans celebrated the opening of the Military Veteran’s Museum. The strong bond between the two individuals was seen in their laughter and comfortableness in talking. Ralph saw Danielle as the future and gave her his 1938 wooden clarinet that traveled with him through WWII, letting her know that it could make the sweetest sound on planet Earth. Symbolically, it was a torch being passed on as shortly after this event, Ralph passed away. It is through the video interviews that captured his life that a legacy of his stories was created. The community partnership made a difference forever in the lives of many.