Recall middle school as an era when the girls go to the bathroom in large groups and create drama, the guys had voices that bounce between high and low octaves in the same hour, and collectively as a group students are all about being whiney kids whose main job is to drive adults crazy interspersed with the need to frock at orthodontist and dermatologist offices? One read of essay submissions answering the challenge question for an essay contest posed by Raymond J. Fisher Middle School eighth grade history teachers “What have veterans done for you and your community, and what does that mean to you?” and that image is quickly discarded. Today’s prominent middle school student is worldly, knowledgeable, and socially conscious and genuinely cares about preserving the freedom Americans have the privilege to enjoy. Students who responded with their literary pieces recently gathered with jurors from the Veterans Memorial & Support Foundation of Los Gatos at an awards ceremony to recognize the contestants and got more than they possibly could have expected from a typical middle school awards program. The students wrote essays about veterans that were judged by veterans and then heard from two very decorated Los Gatos veterans who served America on the front lines.

Heather Keating, Josie Warren and Cara Appleton encouraged eager history students to write essays that included evidence of discussions with veterans that took place during the Fisher Middle School Veteran’s Day Celebration. In return, the top winners Joseph Chadwick, Aida Raza, Gwendolyn Erdosh and Jake Stimson and Honorable Mention recipients Michael Song, Kelsey Grieco, Cameron Wier and Jade Ricci received awards funded through the Veterans Foundation thanks to the private donations from the Mary Ellen and Michael E. Fox Family Foundation earmarked specifically for awarding the top student contributors of the essay competition.

First place winner Joseph Chadwick’s “…Grandfather was a doctor who served in Germany in the aftermath of World War II. During that time, he was given the task of safeguarding our soldiers, but equally important was his work supplying aid to people in desperate need of assistance, such as holocaust survivors and locals.” In his essay The Fabric of Our Flag, Chadwick offered this commentary “Our active soldiers and veterans should receive more recognition and praise for the bravery, selflessness, and compassion they exhibit as they try to build a better world not only for Americans, but also for all humanity.”

Student Aida Raza who tied for second place along with Gwendolyn Erdosh met a female Air Force veteran who recalled some of her more memorable encounters while serving - meeting President Clinton, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and several European Generals. The experience imprinted on the veteran’s mind however was her visit to France in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of World War II where she heard the stories of French civilians who were confined to their homes and survived off limited food stores until Americans arrived. The stories reminded Aida’s Air Force vet “…of why I was really serving and why it was important to have a military.”

Fourth place winner Jake Stimson wrote about his Grandfather who served in the military and decades later, served again, at the invitation of the American University of Afghanistan to travel to the Middle East to help “Women in Afghanistan have the freedom to attain a good education.”

In her essay The Patriots of Today, Los Gatos Mountains resident and second place winner Gwendolyn Erdosh comments on veteran dedication to serving the communities in which they live. “Veterans have fought and risked their lives for our country, which they love,” writes Erdosh. “They not only serve our nation in battle, but continue to serve in their civilian lives.”

Gwendolyn’s comments are well substantiated. Today, many veterans follow their military pursuits with continued service to their communities. Testimony to that is the board of Veterans Memorial and Support Foundation of Los Gatos, which is comprised of veterans and patriotic citizens.

Foundation Board members and Los Gatos residents Major General Kent Hillhouse, US Army, Ret. and Dr. Clyde Horn were present along with additional Foundation Board members to officiate the day’s program. “Have you ever been away from home, perhaps for summer camp, vacation, or a school trip?” asked Major General Kent Hillhouse in addressing the middle school audience. “Well just imagine going away for 15 months which may include two Christmas or Chanukah celebrations, two sets of birthdays, and all the time in between. In some instances, you might not have access to a telephone to phone home or to the Internet to send email to loved ones and friends. That’s what we asked many of our service members to do who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.”

General Hillhouse is not new to knowing what it is like to be away from home. Hillhouse served in the 11th Armor Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam in 1967 – 68. Upon his return, Hillhouse was assigned to U.S. Army Reserve Division, the 91st Infantry Division where he served in numerous command and staff positions culminating in the command of the Division. His terminal assignment was serving in the Pentagon from 1996 through 2001 as Army Deputy Chief of Staff – Personnel responsible for Mobilization. Hillhouse’s service and acts of valor have been rewarded with the Distinguished Service Medal, an award only given to individuals whose performance is distinguished by exceptional meritorious service to the Government in a duty of great responsibility, two Silver Stars – the third highest military decoration for valor and gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States, the Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Today, this Major General, known by colleagues as a man who sports a modest demeanor, employs his leadership skills in business as Senior VP of Cassidy Turley in San Jose and owner of Lindhill Vineyards in the Los Gatos Mountains.




Student Joseph Chadwick Accepts 1st Place Award from Foundation Board Member MG Kent Hillhouse



Raymond J Fisher Middle School Winners Along with Veterans Memorial & Support Foundation Board Members. L to R: Student Joseph Chadwick, Student Jake Stimson, Veteran MG Kent Hillhouse, Student Gwendolyn Erdosh, Foundation Founder Mike Frangadakis, Student Aida Raza, Veteran Dr. Clyde Horn




Major General Kent Hillhouse

Major General Kent Hillhouse, US Army Ret.




Dr. Clyde R. Horn

Foundation Board Member & Veteran
Dr. Clyde Horn

Students also heard from another Los Gatos veteran Dr. Clyde Horn, who also fought in Nam in identical years, 1967-68. Horn is a Vietnam War disabled combat veteran, and the recipient of the Combat Infantry Badge, Purple Heart and Army Commendation Medal. Today Horn, is a semi-retired psychoanalyst following a 24-year career at Santa Clara Valley Medical Hospital and a recognized Subject Matter Expert who often advises the Board of Behavioral Sciences in Sacramento. Horn gives back by combining his military experience together with his professional expertise to work in volunteer positions helping veterans. In addition, Horn is a semi-professional photographer. Horn used his craft to author PTSD in Pictures & Words, a book intended to address veterans of wars and trauma. His unique book is void of technical  terms and language and instead uses visual photographs along with brief words to express the suffering and debilitating effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Dr. Horn explained to students that war’s injuries are not only physical; they are also the silent emotional wounds of war. Horn personally uses art and photography as a personal channel for emotional healing. “One day I noticed that a lot of my photos included pictures of people’s eyes. That’s because someone’s eyes says so much about them.” expanded Horn. “Through our eyes, we see things that are good and things that are bad. The good news is, that our Veterans Memorial & Support Foundation hopes in the years to come, to build one of the best memorials a community can erect as a tribute to our military members, for all the Los Gatos community to see.”

The creativity of young hopeful hearts combined with the experience and wisdom of those who have “Been there, done that”… could there possibly be a better way to congratulate success? What could be more perfect!

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