A Valley City man was honored by the Valley City Education Association as the 2011 “Friend of Education” at Wednesday night’s teacher appreciation banquet at Valley City High School.
Local carpenter and Vietnam war veteran Dean Pedersen received the award, which is given to people who support education in extraordinary ways without being an employee of the district.
Pedersen, who was blinded by a hand grenade during the war, speaks to the freshman English classes during their unit on Vietnam.
“For me, it’s an honor and a privilege to come and speak to these kids,” Pedersen said. “It really is a lot of fun, coming in and speaking to the kids, and if they get a lot out of it, that makes me feel that much better.”
Pedersen brings memorabilia and equipment from the war along with the stories of his own experiences.
VCHS teacher Matt Nielson, who presented Pedersen the award, said “Many students say it is one of the best days of their entire high school career. They leave with much respect for their Vietnam veterans, and know that many veterans refuse to share their stories with their own loved ones, let alone over 100 strangers.”
Pedersen said when he was first approached to speak to a class years ago, the teacher offered him the entire class period to visit with the students.
“I said ‘God - I can’t talk that long.’ So I started off just going with kind of what happened to me and I got to thinking, ‘Holy smokes - these kids weren’t even born yet,’” Pedersen said.
“So I hurried and wrapped that up and then I asked the kids if they have any questions, and boy did they have questions. We went an hour and five minutes; we went into the next class period, so that was kind of cool.”