Operation Remember Students Tour the Constitution and the Massachusetts Korean War Memorial
Last week, I had the pleasure of accompanying several Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School students on a trip to the Charlestown Navy Yard. This summer field trip was part of Operation Remember, our year-long tribute to our Korean War veterans. Throughout the year, the middle school students who are part of the Operation Remember group will learn about the Korean War and Melrose military heritage, by reading, researching, and interacting with local veterans.
Our adventure began with a tour of the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned naval ship in the world. The students explored the spar, gun and berth decks, trying to imagine what it would be like to live and serve aboard this historic wooden frigate. They found the stories of Constitution’s “Great Chase” and her battle with the HMS Guerriere very interesting, and they were especially impressed by the enthusiasm of the young sailor who shared those stories.
After disembarking from the Constitution, we continued down Pier One to the USS Cassin Young (DD-793). A Fletcher-class destroyer, the Cassin Young saw action in the Pacific during World War II and served in the Atlantic and Mediterranean during the Korean War. Decommissioned in 1960, the Cassin Young is now maintained and staffed by the National Park Service. As the students explored the ship, they were surprised by the tight quarters and were shocked to learn that the dining table in the wardroom doubled as an examination and operating table during battle.
Our final destination was the Massachusetts Korean War Memorial, which is both striking and symbolic. One of the memorial’s most surprising features is the motion-activated recording that describes the symbolic elements as you approach. At its center is a larger-than-life bronze statue of an American GI cloaked in a rain poncho, reminiscent of the sculptures that make up the Korean War monument in Washington, DC. The sculpture is ringed by 6 granite columns, each bearing plaques that lists the names of the more than 1500 Massachusetts servicemen and women who were killed in action or missing in action during the Korean War. This central pavilion is surrounded by a brick walkway; some bricks bear the names of individuals and organizations who donated to the memorial fund, while others are engraved with the names of Korean War veterans or casualties remembered by friends and family. As the students sat on the memorial benches that line walkway, listening to the recorded voices of Korean War veterans sharing their experiences, we found – quite by chance – the brick acknowledging the contribution of the City of Melrose.
The trip was very informative and enjoyable for all of us, and was a great way to kick off our commemoration of the Korean War.
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