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Bluffs teacher, student to study World War II in the Pacific history in Hawaii

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Emily Newby, a junior at Abraham Lincoln High School, will participate in a program on World War II History in the Pacific at Pearl Harbor this summer.

A Council Bluffs teacher and student have been selected to participate in an all-expenses-paid World War II history program this summer on Oahu, Hawaii.

The program is presented by National History Day and its sponsors, the Pearl Harbor Historic Site Partners — which include the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, Pacific Historic Parks, Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum at Pearl Harbor. They will be in Hawaii from June 20-26.

Deb Masker, a National History Day teacher-sponsor for more than 30 years, and Abraham Lincoln High School junior Emily Newby, who has participated in National History Day competition since sixth grade, will attend the program — “Sacrifice for Freedom: World War II in the Pacific Student & Teacher Institute” — according to a press release from National History Day. They are among 16 teacher-student duos from U.S. states and territories chosen from 68 applicants for the experience.

Both teacher and student are excited about the trip.

“I have not been to Hawaii before, and neither has Emily, so this will be a great new experience for us,” Masker said.

“I am excited about getting to visit the Pearl Harbor historic site and hearing all of the presentations about World War II in the Pacific,” she said. “We will be expanding our knowledge about the Pacific Theatre by participating in readings and responding to readings and preparing a eulogy for a fallen soldier that is interred at the Punchbowl Cemetery.”

“I am looking forward to seeing Pearl Harbor and possibly spending the night on a naval ship,” Emily said.

Besides learning more about World War II, she is interested in learning about Hawaiian culture and the historic landmarks and museums, she said.

As part of the application process, Masker had to submit a resume, her philosophy of teaching and why she thinks studying World War II is important. Emily had to submit an essay about why she was interested in the program.

In her essay, Emily wrote that both of her paternal grandparents served during World War II. Her grandfather served with the U.S. Army in the Mediterranean Theater as a bombardier over Vienna, Munich and the oil fields of Ploesti, Romania and has published two books about his wartime experience. Her grandmother was an office worker in Washington, D.C. for the Marines.

She said she has focused on some aspect of World War II in several of her National History Day projects. She is currently taking a college-level U.S. Government course and is considering majoring in history in college.

Each duo will complete a “eulogy” of a hometown hero they have been researching for six months who died during World War II and is buried or memorialized at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, the press release stated. During the institute, they will learn the context of the War in the Pacific and their hero’s life and service. By the end of the program, they will complete a “Silent Hero” profile, which will be published during the 2023-24 academic year at NHDSilentHeroes.org.

“Emily and I have discovered that there are seven men from Council Bluffs who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor or Guam or Saipan,” Masker said.

“Programs like this one help to share the true sacrifice of freedom,” said Neil Yamamoto, education outreach coordinator for the Battleship Missouri Memorial in the press release. “It allows young students — our future leaders — to honor those who have paved the way for their future success. It’s such an honor to have these students and teachers sharing the stories of their hometown heroes in hopes that it will further connect them to a war fought so many years ago. As much as history comes alive for them while they’re visiting, they are the ones who keep it alive in their classrooms and communities.”

“This program makes history tangible as students trace the steps of soldiers and visit locations that were instrumental in the Pacific during World War II,” Executive Director Cathy Gorn was quoted as saying. “Each year when students read their eulogies for their Silent Heroes in Hawaii, I can see the deep meaningful connections that transcend time and place. The past becomes the present in that moment.”

Joseph Eskenazi of Redondo Beach, California, the oldest living survivor of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, marked his 105th birthday Wednesday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

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