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'Take a Vet to School’ Program’s a Hit

More than 250 schools in all 50 states have embraced The History Channel’s upcoming “Take a Veteran to School Day,” planning educational events from lunches to three-day events to celebrate Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11).

The schools are logging into History’s to use its educational modules to teach children about the United States’ past conflicts in advance of the vets’ visits, according to Libby O’Connell, chief historian and senior vice president of corporate outreach for the network.

The response to the public-affairs campaign has been overwhelming, she said.

Local events are sponsored from mid-October through mid-November by Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Charter Communications, Bright House Networks, Cable One, Insight Communications, Bresnan Communications and Mediacom Communications.

The campaign is supported by a series of public-service announcements featuring veteran R. Lee Ermey, host of Mail Call. History executives said students are responding to Ermey in one way executives didn’t anticipate: they recognize him as the voice of “Sarge” from the Pixar film Toy Story. Ermey visited Upper Darby High School in Philadelphia as part of the campaign for an event on Oct. 29.

The local schools invite the veterans, O’Connell said, because everyone knows someone who’s a veteran.

One of the visitors to Cider Mill School in Milton, Conn. has close ties to the channel: Marine Corps veteran Nicholas Davatzes. The former CEO of A&E Television Networks has been invited to speak to his granddaughter’s school.

The reaction to the campaign, understandably, has been strongest in military communities. Candace Gibson, educational coordinator for Cox’s Gulf Coast systems in Florida, said her systems will sponsor events in elementary schools in Okaloosa County, an Air Force stronghold; and Escambia County, where the elementary school is named for the famed Blue Angels Naval flight-demonstration squadron.

The schools there are expanding on the learning materials, launching local programs such as a letter-writing campaign to current Gulf War troops, and showing their appreciation for vets by declaring veterans as stars and posting their pictures in school hallways, Gibson said.

Time Warner Cable New York’s event will span all five boroughs on Nov. 5. The kickoff will be staged at Hunter College High School for 400 7th and 8th graders. History officials will then move to events in Harlem (where U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) will participate) Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens.

“In the time we live in right now, this campaign really struck a chord,” said Bonnie Hathaway, vice president, public affairs for Time Warner Cable in New York. “When people actually live the experience, [it has] a tremendous impact.”

As part of this event, the channel will give grants of $10,000 each to five different non-profit organizations, to underscore the channel’s support to veterans of all eras.