RUMFORD — Mountain Valley Middle School students met with local military veterans Wednesday to learn what it’s like to be a soldier.

The session at the Rumford Public Library was part of the students’ studies of the Civil War and part of the Local and Legendary project and Maine Memory Network. It was funded by a $2,000 grant from the Maine Humanities Council.

Students brought models they built of significant Civil War battlefields.

In one group, Anthony Mazza, who works at the Pennacook Learning Center and served in Iraq, listened to questions from students ranging from the change in weapons from the Civil War to now, to the age at which a young person could enter the military service.

Students and community members are reading the Civil War story, “A Soldier’s Heart,” whose main character is a 15-year-old boy.

Students told Mazza that 15 was too young.

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Mazza said serving in a war is like being a deer who is constantly hunted.

“Deer must feel threatened all the time. This weighs on soldiers,” he said.

Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant, a Vietnam War veterans, told his group that going to war ages a young person.

One of the students told his discussion group that the main character in the book seemed to get old really fast.

Gallant said when Vietnam veterans returned to the United States, they were not welcomed, they were disdained.

“When I came back and returned to school, I had to write a journal of forgiveness. Just several years ago, I shared that,” he said.

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Oxford County Detective Capt. Christopher Wainwright, who is a Desert Storm and Iraq War veteran, said nowadays soldiers are thanked when they return.

“It’s almost the opposite. People clap and cheer,” he said.

He also told several students who said they want to join the military that they should be sure to “keep their nose clean” and keep their grades up.

Also sharing his Vietnam War experiences was veteran and local teacher Dan Hodge.

Community members may borrow “A Soldier’s Heart” and read the book the middle school students are studying.

Larissa Vigue Picard of the Maine Historical Society looked around the library at the assembly and said, “This is fantastic. It’s just what we wanted. Students and vets make history come alive.”


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