Pittsford students share veterans' stories, form friendships

4th grade students in Pittsford interviewed veterans to write a book called "Veterans' Voices"

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Their stories often go untold, but thanks to some Pittsford students, the voices of local veterans are being heard.

It might seem like an unusual friendship, but veteran Al Herdklotz has found quite a few friends in Mrs. Stevens-Oliver’s 4th grade class at Thornell Road Elementary School.

"They actually had an interest and they were my friends,” said Herdklotz, Commander of the Pittsford American Legion.

It all began with a class project. The students interviewed 23 veterans for a book called "Veterans' Voices."

"The book was a way for us to connect one-on-one personally a student with a veteran and get to know each other through the veteran telling their story and the student writing that story,” said teacher Toni Stevens-Oliver.

For the students, it was a lesson in service and sacrifice.

"I finally figured out that it was for the senior members of our community and it was very important,” said student Matthew Irving.

"Freedom isn't free, and the veterans sacrificed a lot things. They sacrificed time with their family, holidays,” said student James Kazacos.

"They are just like any normal people, except that they step up and do a job that takes courage,” said student Jack Schreyer.

For Herdklotz it was a reminder that his story, and those of other veterans, are not forgotten.

"I felt very comfortable and at ease. I felt I had a new friendship even though there was quite a bit of age difference, they were my friends,” said Herdklotz.

"They were blown away by the interest the children showed, the respect the children showed,” said Stevens-Oliver. "We hope our books inspires people to ask their local veterans what their story is."

You can also download an app that brings the book to life. When you scan pictures of the veterans it plays videos from them in their own words.

If you would like to order a copy of “Veterans’ Voices” click here.

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