Middle School honors Vietnam War fallen heroes

The B.M.S. 8th grade students in Mrs. Dawn Buccino’s English classes recently completed a P.B.L. about the Vietnam War and its impact on Belleville in the 1960s and 1970s. P.B.L. stands for “project based learning” where the students work on various mandatory and optional or choice activities based on a task statement.
Back row, from left, Krystal Diaz, Amy Trinh, and Leticia Orgueira. Front row, from left, Madeline Bini, Breeyanah Gee-Burney, and Veronica Alvarado. 

Mrs. Buccino took a lesson she had been teaching for the last three years based on the story “Stop the Sun” by Gary Paulsen about a Vietnam War veteran who struggles with his memories of war. She added the book “Belleville Sons Honor Roll-Remembering the Men Who Paid For Our Freedom” which documents the biographies of 157 Belleville men who died while in service to create the three week project. “Belleville Sons” is written by Mrs. Buccino’s husband, local author Anthony Buccino.

She was also assisted by her team Social Studies teacher, Mr. Anthony Ferrara, who taught his Vietnam War unit a bit ahead of schedule to coincide with the P.B.L.

The P.B.L takes a task statement, adds technology, tiered lessons and a differentiated classroom while training the students to schedule their own time. It allows for authentic performance where students showcase their knowledge and produce, not only a packet of diverse work, but also a closing project.

The activity packet had a broad range of choices for students to research with written, visual, artistic and musical components. Research included topics like Agent Orange, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Protest Songs, Vietnam War Memorials, and POW and MIA organizations. They could even interview a Vietnam veteran if they wished.

They also got to create their own activity with Mrs. Buccino’s permission in advance. Students who took that option wrote poetry, wrote and performed Vietnam War protest songs, critiqued art work of that period, and even looked into their own family to do biographies on family members who served our country in various wars.

The closing project however was the biggest hit with each student assigned one of the eleven Belleville Sons who died in service to our country in Vietnam. The students were to create a poster honoring their “hero”.

Mr. Buccino came in to speak and also demonstrate how to navigate the Belleville Sons website. The closing project was then turned into a poster contest with a winner in each of Mrs. Buccino’s five classes. It was called the “Spirit of Belleville Sons” poster contest, and Mr. Buccino was given the very difficult job of judge.

“It was difficult choosing one poster over another, and to choose the most moving poster from five separate classes was no small task,” said the local author. “In all the classes I saw that these students got to know these men nearly as well as I have by writing about them.

“It’s comforting to know that more than 42 years after the last Belleville Vietnam War casualty, these students are learning about the sacrifice of their neighbors. Some of these students went and took photographs of where the soldiers lived in town. Outside of the fallen soldiers’ families and the veterans who will never forget, now, these students will always remember their hero,” said Mr. Buccino.  

“My goal for the whole project was to make my students understand the cost of freedom and remember the 11 men, many of whom sat in these same classrooms when this building was Belleville High School,” Mrs. Buccino said. “The students began to take their job to honor their man very personally. They knew where their man lived, how old he was, where, when and how he was killed. When the posters were presented, the students talked of their “guy” as if they actually knew him.”

The poster contest winners were Krystal Diaz and Breeyanah Gee-Burney  (tied in Period 1), Madeline Bini (Period 2), Leticia Orgueira (Period 3), Amy Trinh (Period 9), and Veronica Alvarado (Period 10). They each received an autographed copy of the Belleville Sons Honor Roll book with Mr. Buccino’s thanks for helping to keep the memory of these 11 men alive.

One poster for each of the 11 Belleville Sons will be on display in the hallway outside of the B.M.S. main office in May for Memorial Day. “I am very pleased that in our own small way, the students of Belleville Middle School brought our Belleville Sons “home”.

The eleven Belleville sons who died in the Vietnam War are: Helder DaSilva, KIA Feb. 7, 1966; John Hoar, KIA Feb. 13, 1966; Lance Corp. Jerry Donatiello, KIA Nov. 20, 1967; Roger Crowell, KIA Jan. 31, 1968; Donald Saunders, KIA March 4, 1968; Raymond DeLuca, KIA June 27, 1968; Corp. Frank Cancelliere, March 15, 1969;  Lt. Col. Alfred Barnes, KIA May 12, 1969; Corp. Paul Nelson, KIA May 31, 1969; Capt. William Branch, KIA June 6, 1970; and Carl Mickens, KIA July 4, 1970.