BANDON – Students at Bandon High School gained valuable insight into the lives of those who have served their country when their teacher decided to get them involved in a local veterans project.
BHS English teacher Stephanie Murphy was asked if her students would participate in a event that longtime resident and Vietnam veteran Joseph Bain sponsors involving a photo of area veterans. The group photo is published annually in the Bandon Western World newspaper.
Murphy jumped at the opportunity and her students in five different classes brainstormed what they could do to honor the veterans who participated in the photo.
The students decided to hold a fundraiser, which culminated with a pie-in-the-face assembly. Students who raised the most through a coin drive earned the right to throw a pie. They raised $235.17 and had a fun and messy assembly that they documented with photos.
But what to do with the money they raised? At first, they thought they'd use the money to provide lunch for the veterans, then learned cookies and punch were being donated anonymously and that lunch wasn't practical.
In the meantime, the class decided to make handmade cards to give to each veteran, about 45 in all. After the photo was taken for the paper, students handed out the cards, helped serve the cookies, coffee and punch and visited in the school district cafeteria with veterans. Some students even interviewed the veterans, but all present met and had conversations with the older generation.
After the event, the students were still not sure what to do with the money they had raised.
That's when they learned of the Greater Bandon Area Veterans Memorial project.
The project is being spearheaded by members of the Bandon Lions, organizers of the Bandon Flag Project, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Bandon Fire District, Kiwanis, Rotary and the Rogue District of the Blue Star Memorial Highway group.
The memorial, which is still in the planning stages, will be located adjacent to The Barn at City Park where the Blue Star Memorial Highway plaque already sits. The group is seeking design ideas from students and others, which will then be presented for approval to the city's Parks and Recreation Commission. The city supports the project and will help with funds as much as possible, said George Trott, one of the memorial's organizers.
The $235.17 check was one of the first donations, said Bill Smith, also a memorial organizer.
“You should be proud of what you've done,” Smith told the students when he and three others came to BHS to accept the check. “And remember what those who served sacrificed so you could be here.”
Murphy said she felt the students enjoyed talking to local veterans who were pleased to be acknowledged. She hopes to involve her classes next year with an expanded event for local veterans, which is also in the planning stages.
“I believe that students learned that it doesn't take a lot to help others,” Murphy said. “They were able to raise over $200 in just under three weeks, adding in mainly loose change they had. I'm hoping they were also able to learn more about the men and women that protect and serve our country.”
Anyone interested in becoming involved or in obtaining more information about the Greater Bandon Area Veterans Memorial project can call Smith at 541-404-6195 or Trott at 541-297-7097.
Two of Murphy's students wrote a story after interviewing Jim Phillips, a decorated 90-year-old veteran who had a 38-year career in the military. Phillips moved to Bandon last year to live with his daughter and son-in-law Cindy and Paul Hay.
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Read their write-up below:
By Sarah Skeie and Autum McCabe
Jim Phillips, a decorated soldier, began his life living on Army bases and spent 32 years in the service himself. He started his military career at West Point in 1946, graduating in 1951 and was later a student at both Fort Leavenworth and Fort Knox, where he later taught for three years.
In 1952 he was in Korea for a month and then was wounded in action, and was transferred to Camp Drake in Japan for medical treatment and rehabilitation. After recovery from his injuries, he spent two and a half years in Japan. Colonel Phillips was later moved again to Fort Knox as a Commander Tank Battalion, overseeing about 55 tanks. In 1964, Colonel Phillips was sent to Vietnam as an adviser. Later, after his second tour in Vietnam, he went to Fort Huachuca where he was the Commander of the Electronic Proving Ground. He then spent 10 years stationed in Fort Huachuca, and from there he retired to Colorado.
Colonel Phillips was also on the staff to help develop an MBT tank, now known as an M1, for three years in Washington, D.C.
Phillips ended his military career with eight metals, the first being a WWII Victory. Looking back, Phillips recalls one of the major benefits in joining the service is the education he received during that time.
When asked if he had any advice to anyone interested in joining the services, he responded with, “Just go! Really, just go do it!” Below is a list of the eight medals that Colonel Jim Phillips earned throughout his career and something that he can look back on and remember with pride.
Defense Meritorious Service
Army Service Medal
Legend of Marat x4
U.S. Korea Vietnamese