In November, two second-grade teachers at Challenger K-8 — Stacey Visceglie and Tammy Quinn — wanted their students to learn about sacrifices made by United States military veterans.
They came up with a project: Each student would research a veteran — a family member or friend — and tell that person’s story in writing. They then would present their reports to their classmates.
One of the students, Elizabeth Genovese, with the help of her parents, took the assignment beyond the expectations of her teachers.
Her mother, Jennifer Genovese, whose grandfather was a decorated World War II veteran, began digging into the family’s history.
Luther Hamlin Jr. was a corporal in the U.S. Army who earned a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, a Good Conduct Medal, a European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze service stars, a World War II Victory Medal, a Combat Infantry Badge 1st Award, an honorable service lapel button and a Sharpshooter Badge with carbine and rifle bars.
Hamlin died in 1992, so Elizabeth and her sister, Tabitha, never met their great-grandfather. During the class assignment the family worked to learn as much as they could about the man who earned so many prestigious awards.
Elizabeth presented her project to the class. But it didn’t end there.
Jennifer Genovese’s attempts to find the medals to show them to her daughter’s class were futile. Somehow, through the years, they had been misplaced. So she wrote to the National Personal Records Center (www.archives.gov) seeking help.
The reissued medals arrived about a week ago, in time for Memorial Day.
Elizabeth, along with her parents and sister, returned to the classroom for a follow-up on the project that began in recognition of Veterans Day.
Thomas and Jennifer Genovese spoke to the class and unveiled the medals, allowing each student to touch the symbols of bravery and dedication to the country Hamlin fought to protect.
The students also were treated to cupcakes and American Flag pinwheels.
“I can’t thank the teachers enough for this project,” said Jennifer Genovese. “Our family would have never had the chance to see these records and work to put together the story of a great-grandfather who the girls were never able to meet.”