As Memorial Day approaches on Monday, we’re looking at a program which is enabling students to meet with veterans and open a dialogue about their war experiences.

“Dialogues of War” is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. St. John Fisher College History Department Chair Dr. Carolyn Vacca and Dr. Larry Nazarian, a resident at St. John’s Senior Living and Vietnam Era veteran, discussed how it works Friday during News 8 at Noon.

“The grant is from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and it’s to connect humanities to the larger questions that we ask,” said Dr. Vacca. “In this case the questions about service, duty, loyalty as we see it through the lens of war.”

In April, a group of veterans living at St. John’s Senior Living welcomed several students from St. John Fisher for a conversation about their war time experiences. Dr. Nazarian was among the veterans in the room.

“One of the things that was appealing about this experience was that you had vets from many different venues talking about their experiences,” he observed. “I got a lot out of it listening to the other guys and what they had to say. Some of them were actually considerably older and had experience in WWII and Korea, and many of them had been in combat zones. In my own case, I was in the Medical Corps and spent two years in active duty stateside. Actually, I’m a pediatrician, and so people say what in the heck are they going to use you for in the Army? And we had a lot of families of permanent party people who were training the soldiers, living on post, and their children needed care.”

Dr. Nazarian served in the Army Medical Corps from 1967-69. He saw the students gain a new perspective as a result of their intergenerational interaction. “I think they garnered a sense of the intensity of the experience for many of the folks who were talking, and I think they also learned that there are many aspects to the defense of the country through the armed services.”

Dr. Vacca said more discussions are planned, including a return trip to St. John’s. “On a questionnaire we handed out every participant said they would like to participate in another discussion group, so we plan to return and build on what we’ve already started because it’s been, not to overstate it, transformative. The students have understood a world where you didn’t have a choice. You know, most of the people that they talked to were drafted, and it had a huge impact in their lives and it’s great for students to engage with that.”