On May 15, eighth-grade students at Westchester Middle School had the opportunity to hear from Don Weigand, a Vietnam War veteran from the United States Army’s 1st Infantry Division and a member of the Valhalla American Legion Post 1038 veterans’ chapter. Westchester Middle School Teacher Mr. Caccopola invited Mr. Weigand to Windward to give students the opportunity to hear firsthand about the Vietnam War, complementing their learning in their social studies classes.
Beginning his service when he was 18 years old, Mr. Weigand served as an artillery surveyor from 1968-1970. In his role, he would set up support bases before the battalions and infantry troops arrived. After an honorable medical discharge from the military, Mr. Weigand returned home to New Rochelle, NY, and eventually worked at Westchester Community College for 40 years, retiring in May 2015 as Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs.
After giving a brief depiction of his day-to-day life in Vietnam, Mr. Weigand answered student questions. In response to one question about what he gained or lost while serving in Vietnam, he responded, “I gained a great deal of respect and appreciation for the United States and for the freedoms we enjoy to this day. After seeing the way of life and living conditions of the Vietnamese people, it gives you a better appreciation for all the things we have here.”
Mr. Weigand also shared two messages with the students regarding one lesson he learned while serving in Vietnam and the other about the most valuable skill the eighth graders should focus upon. “One of the things I learned in Vietnam was to be considerate to those less fortunate than yourselves, and always pay it forward. Lastly, I encourage you all to read, read, read! There is no other skill needed more to achieve success than strong reading comprehension skills.” To conclude his presentation, Mr. Weigand read the poem “Soldier” by George Skypeck aloud to the students, which he felt accurately captured the feelings of many veterans like himself.
To thank Mr. Weigand for his informative visit and for his service to the country, Mr. Caccopola announced that The Windward School would be making a donation to the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 49, which represents Westchester County veterans.
Pictured are Mr. Caccopola, WMS Teacher; Don Weigand; and WMS Teacher Ms. McDonough