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School District of Beloit Students Research Veterans, Find Their Names on Memorial Wall

Twenty- three eighth-graders from the School District of Beloit traveled to Washington, D.C., May 14-17, to explore our Nation’s capital and honor those who served our country. Highlighting the trip was an outing to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where students commemorated local veterans from Beloit and Janesville who lost their lives during the Vietnam War.

Prior to the visit, students were assigned to researched the background of Beloit and Janesville service members whose names appear on the memorial wall. At the memorial, they were able to physically locate the etched names and collect a rubbing of the name from the wall.

The trip also included visits to numerous famous memorials and museums, including the Arlington National Cemetery, Korean War Veterans Memorial, World War II Memorial, and the Holocaust Memorial Museum.


Organized by program leader Charles Smith, an 8th grade social studies teacher at Aldrich Middle School, the trip offered students a rare opportunity for out-of-state travel and sightseeing to famous monuments and museums.

“It is something that they will have forever. They can hand it down to their kids. They can say ‘I appreciate the trip’ and maybe let their students go when they’re older or take their family. It may spark them to want to try an internship somewhere out of state or travel someplace else in the future and see another part of the country. So I think for me, it’s the fact that you can’t take this trip away from them. Once they have it and they’ve gone and they’ve experienced it, it’s their’s forever,” Smith said.

Since 2011, Smith has programmed nine visits to Washington, D.C., focusing a large component of the trip on memorials — a move that is somewhat personal.

“To go to the war memorials always means something special to me, because both my father and my grandfather were in the Army. My father was drafted during Vietnam, so he was serving in Korea during Vietnam. He has some stories and some friends and classmates that we have talked about that did not return. So it’s always been to basically honor my father and my grandfather, and to pay respects to the men who didn’t come home,” Smith cited.

“It may be the Vietnam War Memorial, it may be the World War II Memorial, it may be the Holocaust Museum, it may be the 9-11 memorial at the Pentagon. All students find something that moves them and perhaps gives them a greater perspective than just what they’re used to in their day-to-day life,” Smith continued.

Before the trip, students researched the names, age, ranks and where they lost their lives. Research was conducted through the Wall of Faces website, which documents the lives of soldiers on The Wall. When students went to The Wall in person, they traced their assigned service member’s name onto a sheet of paper, which would later be framed.

For Taylor-Sue Schroeder, an eighth-grader at Aldrich Middle School, the visit to The Wall provided a newfound-perspective.

“It really made me think about how in every war, there are so many people who pass away and get harmed and it’s like, who would want to start that? It was sad, especially because a lot of them were really young,” she said.

“Before you get all this information on them, it was just a name on the wall, but then you get to know the person and it makes it sadder. We learned a lot about the wars, but we learned a lot about what to appreciate too. You could never really know when a war is going to start or when it’s going to end, but we learned a lot about appreciating what you have and using your time to see the people you love because you never know what could happen,” she continued.

The same sentiment was echoed by Alysha Weigel, another student who went on the trip.

“I saw the picture and it made me process everything as more than just a name on the wall,” she said. “I think it made me kind of more process that these are real people and real events that happened through seeing the memorials. It’s one thing to read it, but being in the places where things happen, reading the names, seeing the pictures, even seeing the president is like a very, almost overwhelming feeling.” 

The experience of seeing memorials in person proved to be impactful, with many students describing how it made them more grateful in their day-to-day lives.

“It changed me because I realized I’m not alone in this world. There’s a bunch of people out there and it just changed me. I just want to be more empathetic and kind to people, and just stand up for what I believe because a lot of the things in this world could have been prevented if people just stood up for what they believed in,” said Abigail Rohrbeck, a student at Fruzen Middle School.

For some students who participate in this annual field trip, it is their first time traveling out-of-state and their first time flying on an airplane. It allowed them to explore historic sights and collect unforgettable memories.

This year, during their tour of the Capitol, students were even introduced to Congressman Brian Steil, a Janesville native who currently represents Wisconsin’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Smith’s 10th trip to D.C with WorldStrides is scheduled for May 13 -16, 2025. He works closely with Worldstrides to advertise fundraising ideas, scholarship opportunities, and payment plans. With the help of Cindy Kersey, an account agent from WorldStrides, Smith has been able to make this field trip an iconic adventure.

The service member names that the students researched were:

Beloit: Nolan Eugene Black, Edwin Fay Brown, Jerrald Joseph Bulin, John Albert De Bock, Harry Eugene Geary, William Paul Martin, James Paul McConnell, Michael Charles Nielsen, Timothy John Norman, Gerald Wyne Schultz, Richard William Stindl, Leonard John Tauschek, Ernest William Tews, and Dennis Melvin Wood.

Janesville: Timothy Charles Agard, Vincent James Agivs, Thomas Lewis Becker, Donald William Downing, David Lee Drought, David Anthony Fasnacht, John Junior Fiedler, Alvin Leanard Halverson, David Peter Hellenbrand, John McFarland Kessinger, Robert Allen McCartney, Jeffery Evans Mead, Carl Everett Oldfield, Elwood John Roehl, Harry Warren Schneider, William Joseph Schneider, Michael Wayne Schumacher, Thomas Earl Vail, Ralph Michael Wixson, and Warren Kenneth Wolff.

Source: Beloit Daily News