EAST LIVERPOOL - Heroes don't always wear capes, nor are they always human, or so Westgate Middle School fifth- and sixth-graders learned Monday.
In honor of Veterans Day, teachers in the social studies department prepared a program for students to learn about war-time heroes, human and otherwise.
Students prepared ahead of time at recent grandparents' day events, gathering information from their grandparents about family and friends who have served in the military.
Those names were written on different-colored stars which were used to adorn the auditorium stage Monday morning: red for those who served, white for those who served and were injured, and gold for those who served and paid the supreme sacrifice, giving their lives for their country.
Principal Linda Henderson said teachers thought seeing the stars would be a way to make the students realize the numbers of people they know who are veterans.
A power point presentation allowed students to also learn about well-known heroes of World War I and World War II, such as Gen. John Pershing, fighter pilot Eddie Rickenbacker, Sgt. Alvin York, Edward O'Hare, John Basilone and Audie Murphy.
But, as interesting as the human heroes were to the students, their attention was piqued as the topic turned to animals who helped the war effort.
This included Sergeant Stubby, the most decorated war dog in WWI, who captured an enemy spy and was the only dog to be promoted to sergeant through combat.
Sergeant Reckless, a Mongolian mare, was the "pride of the Marines" during the Korean War, winning two Purple Hearts after joining as a pack horse in 1952 and then being promoted to sergeant.
Cher Ami "dear friend" in French was a Black Check Cock homing pigeon and one of 600 used by the U.S. Army Signal Corp during WWI, but the only one honored for saving 200 American lives.
Teacher Jan Toot said the Germans reportedly trained hawks to go after the homing pigeons, and Cher Ami was attacked twice by the hawks on her rounds.
A German shepherd/collie/husky mix, PFC Chips was a tank guard dog for the U.S. Army during WWII and was recognized for silencing a German machine gun nest by jumping on the soldier manning it.
Perhaps the smallest hero of WWII was Smoky the Yorkshire terrier who was found by an American soldier in a foxhole in the New Guinea jungle. The four-pound fully-grown dog stood a mere seven inches tall, which proved helpful as she traveled with a Cleveland soldier who bought her from her rescuer for $6.44.
When the Army needed to move a telegraph wire through a 70-foot-long pipe that had an eight-inch circumference, Smoky was called into action, pulling the wire tied to his collar as he edged along the pipe and ran out the other end to his waiting owner.
The students ended their day by singing patriotic songs.