BIC EAST students present “Remembering the Forgotten War”

Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Five Korean War veterans who participated in this project. Pictured are, from left: Billy Jack Simpkins, Arlie Williams, Arthur Phelps, Edwin Dunigan, Verlin Williams. (photos provided)

Buffalo Island Central EAST students, under the direction of facilitator Jill Sanders, recently presented a Readers Theater of Oral History from the Korean War.

The presentation was the grand finale of months of hard work and dedication to record firsthand remembrances of the Korean War (sometimes called The Forgotten War) as told by local men who were there.

The project, jointly sponsored by the Butler Center of Arkansas Studies, a unit of the Central Arkansas Library System and the EAST Beyond the Bell project, is funded by the EAST Initiative and made possible by the Arkansas Department of Education.

Cadyn Qualls, editor for the EAST project.

Heading up the project was BIC senior Cadyn Qualls, editor.

“It was an honor for me to be part of the Readers Theater,” Cadyn said. “I really enjoyed the project and it was important to me to help the community and honor the veterans. It was a learning experience. I learned something from each veteran. They never asked for the recognition they deserved.”

Cadyn said she did not know much about the Korean War before she started the project. The history of the Forgotten War came alive for the young students as they interviewed the veterans and gathered facts about the war that took place long before they were born.

Information was collected, edited and performed by BIC students. Korean War veterans honored included Arthur Phelps, Verlin Williams, Arlie Williams, Edwin Dunigan and Billy Jack Simpkins.

They were all special guests at the presentation held Wednesday, May 2.

Serving as narrator for the Readers Theater was Krista Cox. Readers included Cadyn Qualls (Mr. Phelps); Colin Weatherly (Mr. Williams); Harris McCord (Mr. Williams); Kaite Fry and Meagan Love (Mr. Dunigan) and Alissa Hughes (Mr. Simpkins).

A lot of work was done behind the scenes by EAST students including editors: Harris McCord, Carlee Bird, Haleigh Jackson, Colin Weatherly, Brody McFall, Baylee Rose, Carlie Wattigney, Lexa Whitley, Destanie Shubert, Trevor Penix and Payton Ivy.

Interviewers included Erica Hurst, Carlie Wattigney, Destanie Shubert, Trevor Penix, Cadyn Qualls and Carlee Bird.

Students expressed their appreciation to George West, Butler Center Education Outreach Coordinator, who helped them so much in the endeavor.

The project will be part of the Arkansas History Hub, hosted by the Butler Center, and teachers from all over can use this information in their classrooms. The BIC EAST students are excited to be part of something that will be around for years to come.

Narrator Krista Cox said many of the memories shared by the veterans had not been talked about through the years.

"All of the stories touched my heart," she said. "One story from Mr. Simpkins, a paratrooper, was about a rescue mission he was part of. They were going in to stop a train and rescue over 100 American prisioners. When they stopped the train, only 27 were alive. The soldiers survived by pretending to be dead. Only 20 survived. He got emotional telling the story."

The project was a huge undertaking for the students. The grant went to purchase tools needed such as a video camera, computer, etc. Students went to the Butler Center in Little Rock and Mr. West worked with the students preparing them to make the audio recordings. The recordings will be part of the pod cast.

Reader Meagan Love said it was an honor to get to read.

"It is important to record these stories so people will not forget," she said.

Reader Alissa Hughes said she did not know much about the Koran War before she started working on the project.

"To see their faces and hear their stories it became very personal for me," Alissa said. "I am glad we got to document their stories for generations to come."

Cadyn said she is grateful to have had the opportunity to work on the project. She has been part of the BIC EAST Initiative for three years.

The students presented each honored veteran with copies of the full interviews to keep and share with family members.

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