Fulton's Future History Makers

This column has always focused on people who’ve made history in our city, but, for today, I’m writing about those who will create our future: children. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Fultonian Carlton Barrett, a soldier who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his World War II service. I learned about Carlton’s valor by speaking with teacher Bill Cahill, whose sixth grade class project introduces the soldier to his students. The class was then given an assignment to write an essay about Barrett by answering this question: Why are you proud of Carlton Barrett’s actions and what character traits would be needed to do what he did? Here are some examples of what Cahill’s students wrote:

Audrey White focused on Barrett’s bravery. “I know it might seem as if he was fearless,” Audrey wrote, “but being brave and being fearless aren’t the same thing. Being fearless means not to be scared at all and it can lead to irrational choices. Being brave, however, means doing something despite of the fear and pain that you are facing.”

Cassie Clarke named her essay “You Don't Need A Superpower To Be A Superhero,” explaining that “Carlton got shot four times and still was swimming people back to the ship, where it was safe, instead of going on the ship himself. He risked his life so other people could be safe; he could have lost so much blood and died. I wish I could have as much bravery and loyalty to people as he did because we don't have many people in this world that would do things like that.”

Super heroic behavior was also important to Ava Pelky’s essay, in which she named four of Barrett’s superhero qualities: “gallantry, valor, intrepidity, and coolness. While risking his life and getting shot at and bombed, with shrapnel flying in all directions, he had to have all of these character traits….Having those skills is like having a superpower. For example, where would your favorites superheroes be if they weren’t brave, bold, and fearless?”

Examples of Barrett’s bravery, courage, and heroism were part of Kaleb Wise’s essay. “He showed courage because he was swimming nonstop to bring others to safety. He also showed bravery because he went back while getting shot at to save more people. He showed heroism because while wounded he cared more for others than himself.”

As Gianna Tucker sees it, Carlton Barrett was also altruistic. “[He was someone] who put other people's lives before their own. I wish I could be more like him. If everyone, including me, had a little drop of his bravery, this world would be amazing.”

 Aidan Bowman called Barrett “selfless,” explaining that “he was determined to save as many people as he could, that's why he is such a good man. I would like to have some of these character traits because it represents what a good man is.”  

 “It would be great if he was still alive,” wrote Cadence Schneider, “so he could visit schools [and] teach them what he went though, and tell them how horrible the events he went to were.…I feel like there should be a day in Fulton honoring him.”

Some people’s traits may not immediately seem to belong together. For Ava Ditton, Carlton had both kindness and strength. “We all want to treat people kind and we all want people to treat us kind. Another character trait he has is strength because he still decided to remain in the Army for many more years. He could have left and been done, but he stayed and choose to risk his life.”

Madeline Ligoci focused on Carlton’s physical ability to continue rescuing soldiers even after he’d been wounded. “Barrett was a determined person and showed great valor as a soldier….Could you imagine swimming back and forth in the ocean without being taught how to swim before war AND being shot three times? I would look up to him because he is so determined and he is authentic. He is as real as you could get.”

Like many of her classmates, Gracie Parry wants to possess the same trait as Barrett. “I would love to have the bravery Carlton W. Barrett had…. I bet none of us have that type of bravery to save others and keep going until you get four wounds. If one of us got one wound, we would have probably saved ourselves! He just kept saving fellow soldiers.”

Kyle Stuber had his eye on the future when he selected Barrett’s greatest character trait. “The reason I am so proud of his actions is because he was able to save people so they could possibly have kids, and those kids will have kids, and so on, and one of them could have developed a cure for cancer or something like that.”

Finally, Calie Shepard makes an important suggestion as to why we should all remember Carlton Barrett, but not just during World War II memorial services and not just once a year: “He should be more known because he saved a lot of people who lived and went home to their families and most likely had kids. If he didn’t save them then they would…not have been able to be in such a good and amazing world today.”

As I read these students’ essays, I was reminded of this quote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It was Spanish philosopher George Santayana who pointed out the importance of keeping our history alive and it’s teachers like Bill Cahill who are doing just that, making sure his students never forget—not just to preserve history, but to suggest to our children how to create a better future.

Students from Bill Cahill’s Volney Elementary School sixth-grade classroom recently wrote essays about Fulton’s Medal of Honor recipient Carlton Barrett.

Students from Bill Cahill’s Volney Elementary School sixth-grade classroom recently wrote essays about Fulton’s Medal of Honor recipient Carlton Barrett.