Students with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Military Mentoring Program are receiving a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience history firsthand and learn from WWII veterans. Through an essay contest sponsored by AT&T, three students along with their “Big Sisters” and guardians will join three AT&T* retirees, who served in WWII, and travel to the historic battle site of Pearl Harbor where the students will get a chance to “life shadow” the veterans.
During this three-day educational event the students will spend time with veterans to learn how the war impacted their lives and connect history, learned inside the classroom, to real world experiences. While in Hawaii, they will attend the unveiling of the new Pearl Harbor Memorial Museum and Visitor Center on December 7. The event commemorates the 69th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, when nearly 2,500 Americans lost their lives after Japanese forces bombed the naval base and provoked the United States entry into World War II. The group will also participate in other events as part of the anniversary celebration, including a tour of the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the USS Arizona.
“Children in military families face unique challenges and Big Brothers Big Sisters and our military mentoring partners are committed to working with their families to give them every chance to succeed,” said Karen J. Mathis, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. “AT&T has provided an amazing opportunity for these three young women to honor our nation’s heroes, while experiencing special memorable moments with their guardians and mentors. It is something they will likely not soon forget.”
The three selected mentees are from Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star, located in the Dallas, Texas. Military Mentoring mentees in grades 10, 11 and 12 were invited to submit essays on their thoughts on war, including the attack on Pearl Harbor and how it has impacted their lives, and an interview of a veteran. Highlights of winning essays include:
- Renesha M.- hopes to continue the military tradition of her father, a 13-year Air Force veteran because she believes that his service, and hers, will help make a difference in the lives of other people.
- Jasmine S.- focused on the impact of our veteran’s military service, including her grandfather who served for 20 years in the Marine Corps and fought in the Vietnam War, and thanks them for her freedom.
- Symone P.- called her father a “cotton-hearted civilian” and a “brick-minded soldier,” and talked about the positive things that come from being part of a military family, like strength, independence, and a tight, familial bond.
“We believe that connecting Big Brothers Big Sisters Military Mentees with our WWII veterans will provide a lifelong learning experience and deeply impact all participants," said Laura Sanford, AT&T Foundation president. “AT&T has a deep appreciation for the service of military veterans and believes that they are a great asset to educating future generations.”
The three AT&T retiree veterans were selected by the AT&T Veteran’s Employee Resource Group and AT&T Pioneers volunteers. The chosen veterans served at Pearl Harbor or were on active duty in WWII. They include:
- Arles Cole - Tulsa, Oklahoma. Mr. Cole was serving as a Quartermaster on the navigational bridge on the USS West Virginia at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack.
- Royce Bordelon - Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Mr. Bordelon served as a rifleman/field telephone man in the 3rd Marine Division during his first tour of duty in the Pacific following the Pearl Harbor attack.
- Marvin Bell - Akron, Ohio. Mr. Bell was a 1st class Fire Controlman on the USS Briareus that arrived after the bombing at Pearl Harbor.
In 2006, the AT&T Foundation provided a $225,000 grant to the Arizona Memorial Museum Association to support the new Pearl Harbor Memorial Museum and Visitor Center, replacing the deteriorated Museum and Visitor Center.
The Big Brothers Big Sisters Military Mentoring program was established in 2008 when the T. Boone Pickens Foundation awarded Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the nation’s largest donor-supported network of volunteer mentors, a five-year $3 million grant to establish the program at 22 of the mentoring organization’s local agencies. The program matches children of military families with Big Brothers and Sisters who are in the military, ROTC, or military school.