Photos: Veterans get a huge welcome at Reynolds High School

Photos: Veterans get a huge welcome at Reynolds High School
Two students clap during an Assembly of Honor held at Reynolds High School on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011 (photo by Shannon L. Cheesman, KATU.com Web Producer/Reporter).

PORTLAND, Ore. - Veterans filled the halls of Reynolds High School on Wednesday to share their experiences with students and hopefully leave an indelible impression about what Veterans Day is all about.

Veterans from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, Iraq and Afghanistan were invited to spend some time with students for 'Living History Day.'

Some of the veterans visited classrooms to talk about their lives in the military and others gave formal presentations inside the school's auditorium or gym.

One of the featured speakers was Lt. Col. Alex Jefferson, a Tuskegee Airman who served in World War II.

The Tuskegee were the first African-American aviators in the U.S. Armed Forces and faced racial discrimination both in the military and in their day-to-day lives.

Racism was just one of the topics that Jefferson touched on during a morning presentation in the school's auditorium. He also told the students about his first experience at a Nazi death camp.

"The odor of burning human flesh is something I'll never forget," he said, adding that he saw tables full of human hair and teeth that had been removed from the dead. He said the hair was used to make seat cushions and the teeth were searched for valuable metals.

"Man's inhumanity to man," he said, shaking his head.

Jefferson was just one of the hundred or so veterans who took the time out of their day to reach out to the students at Reynolds High. At the end of the school day, an Assembly of Honor was held during four different sessions so the students could show the veterans their appreciation.

KATU spent the day at Reynolds High to photograph Living History Day.
View the gallery above to see our photos.

About Veterans Day

We have President Woodrow Wilson to thank for declaring a day to honor veterans. He did so in 1919 and said "to us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations."

It wasn't until 1938, however, that Veterans Day (or Armistice Day as it was originally called) became a legal holiday.