Chartiers Valley juniors research names of servicemen on plaque
Five Chartiers Valley High School juniors are on a quest to find the stories behind 17 local servicemen after a plaque bearing their names was found at the school.
Superintendent Brian White found the plaque in basement storage under the middle-high school complex last summer. He enlisted high school history teacher Robert Rodrigues to gather a group of students to find out the stories detailing the men's lives.
The district plans to rededicate the plaque and a memorial on May 23, just before Memorial Day. They want to invite local residents and veterans to the ceremony.
“You don't hear about World War II veterans being recognized anymore,” said Rachel Jones, a student working on the project. “It's nice to have the school recognize them and let them know they're not forgotten. These guys didn't get the recognition they deserved.”
The students started with just the list of 17 names and the knowledge that they died between 1941 and 1945 during World War II. It wasn't much information, Rodrigues said, but it was a start.
The students said they've found enlistment dates and some family members and some death locations, but information on specific people from that era is sparse.
“There's not much information on these guys,” student Amanda Mazzarini said. “Today, you can find an obituary online. But not from then.”
They have found the names of some possible family members, she said, but no contact information.
Mazzarini was able to find a small news article about Leonard Facciotti, a Carnegie native who was 23 when he was killed in Guam.
Kevin McGoogan found that George Trumpeter was killed and lost at sea. A destroyer was named after him – the USS Trumpeter.
“When you're looking for one or two specific people, you become attached,” Mitchell McDermott said. “You're getting to know about these people's lives.”
He said it gives a different view of the war.
“Instead of numbers and statistics, these are real people,” he said.
Lauren Bittner agreed.
“You start to realize who died and who they were,” she said. “These were people from our area.”
Rodrigues said he meets with the group every Friday morning to discuss their progress, but that the students have made it their own.
“Their intensity has been incredible,” he said. “They're creating this from scratch. It's neat, but hard. It's not like they have some model to follow.”
Rodrigues said the students have “almost hit a wall” in terms of research they can do on the Internet.
“There's only so much on the Internet about them,” said Mazzarini.
Jones said they have found newspaper archives, but “you can't go through every single newspaper from every single day.”
The students have reached out to U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) and also are turning to the public for help, hoping the local community still holds friends or relatives of the 17 men.
“I keep telling them that when you get something like this, so real and meaningful – this is something where you can bring your kids here 20 years from now and say, ‘I did this,'” Rodrigues said. “That's legacy. You don't get many opportunities to do something in school that leaves a legacy.”
Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or firstname.lastname@example.org.