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Samuel Barker, left, who plays a Vietnam veteran being interviewed by his niece, played by Ashley Moore, in a scene from Austin High School's play 'We Will Remember: A Tribute to Veterans.'
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Samuel Barker, left, who plays a Vietnam veteran being interviewed by his niece, played by Ashley Moore, in a scene from Austin High School's play "We Will Remember: A Tribute to Veterans."

Salute to veterans
Austin students pay tribute
with 'We Will Remember'

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

Drama students at Austin High School will salute veterans with a one-act play Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the school.

Veterans will be admitted free and recognized during the 45-minute performance of "We Will Remember: A Tribute to Veterans."

Photographs of local men and women who served the country in various eras will be projected on two 9-foot screens during the play.

Austin drama teacher Susan Thompson said that while collecting photos from families and friends, "I heard some amazing stories about grandfathers and fathers and women, too. I thought this would be a neat play to present, because so many people are proud of their service."

The story unfolds as five students, played by Izzy Gillespie, Emily Hetrick, Ashley Moore, Lauren Miller and Ashley Holland, work on a school project, researching veterans and different wars.

"This play, written by Sandra Asher, is based on an actual project at a school in Gibsonia, Pa., with interviews, diaries, letters and poems contributed by families of students there," Thompson said.

"While some of these servicemen are no longer around, we hear their stories through their journals and letters," said Thompson. "It's interesting that some of the same things happen, whatever the war, such as both a Civil War battle and D-Day being delayed because of bad weather."

Other Austin drama students portray servicemen and families from various eras of history: Gabriel Johnson is a Civil War soldier; Jimmy Rath, World War II sailor; Steven Nix, World War II soldier; Shane Perry, Korean War veteran; and Sam Barker, Vietnam War veteran.

Jeremy Jones portrays a Japanese veteran, while Whitney Wales is a Naval Academy midshipman. Abby Sibley plays a nurse, Ashley Compton a grandmother, Taylor Naumann a father and Brooke Miller a sister of a serviceman.

One student interviews the Korean War vet in a veterans' home, while another gets the grandmother to share letters her husband wrote from World War II.

The play, which premiered in 2001, includes a mention of Desert Storm, when one student says her mother wore combat boots there.

"The scene about Vietnam is really powerful," said Thompson, "with intensity and chemistry between Barker and Moore that makes it easy to feel the emotion."

One of Thompson's classes recorded the Vietnam-era chant, "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" They got louder and louder, with street sounds added later for maximum impact, she said.

"This play is written in a way that is entertaining enough to keep the attention of students who were not around through those wars," said Thompson, who plans one performance for the student body. The program will end with a song, "Soldier," by the Austin chamber choir and drama students.

If you go

What: One-act play “We Will Remember: A Tribute to Veterans”

When: Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Where: Austin High School auditorium

Admission: $3 at door, with veterans free

Call: 552-3060, ext. 251, for more information

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